Questioning Our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura

Not for itching ears Sola ScripturaNothing but Scripture?

It is becoming apparent to me that no church, no theologian, no follower of Christ actually lives out their faith based on the idea of Sola Scriptura.

Sola scriptura as a principle states that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian.   The Protestants among us recognize this and embrace it wholeheartedly.  It sounds good on paper.  It really does.  Why do we need anything but the Scriptures to help us form the doctrinal positions that shape our faith?  “WE DON’T” shout the reformers among us!

The problem with their answer is it is demonstrably not true.   I’ve never met anyone who actually practices this idea and neither have you. The New Testament church certainly did not.  That is also demonstrably true.  The fact of the matter is that our protestant theologies are shaped by those who have gone before us and who taught us what the Scriptures mean.  Our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters are at least honest enough to admit that they hold this view.

We protestants, on the other hand, are heavily influenced by our own traditions. We say we believe in the Bible alone.  We trash Catholics and Orthodox for their use of tradition.  Yet our theology is shaped by how men in the 15th century understood it. Calvin, is our tradition. Or, Arminius.  Or Knox, Luther, Zwingli or some other later day theologian. We interpret the scriptures through the filter of their theology which in turn shapes what we believe the Scriptures teach.

We don’t see this for what it is because we believe that those guys mentioned above got it right.   Fifteen hundred years after the fact, we believe that they understood the scriptures in the way they were written to be understood.   We follow their understanding of Scripture, somehow failing to grasp that we have embraced their understanding as our own “tradition”.

A classic example of this is the Pre-tribulation rapture theory.  Those who believe the Bible teaches this view fail to grasp that the church never understood the Bible to teach this.  It was not until the 1800’s that this theory emerged in churches.  Still, those who believe it today are convinced that this is what the Bible teaches.  They fail to see that this is simply a tradition of man that has been passed down since the 1800’s.  How any protestant believer can not see that we ALSO use tradition to interpret any number of scriptures baffles me. Of course we do!

The discussion should not be about tradition vs scripture. Instead, it should focus on whose tradition is closer to the New Testament era, and hence more reliable.

For a fascinating read from an Orthodox priest challenging Sola Scriptura, read our 4 part series called: A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (Scripture Alone) Part 1.  Or read a serious challenge to the Reformers concept of Total Depravity  in a post aptly titled:   “Could the Doctrine of Total Depravity Be Totally Depraved?”This is definitely NOT for one who has itching ears.  Be prepared, it will challenge you!

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on December 14, 2014, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 89 Comments.

  1. Tradition vs scripture? How about what the Holy Spirit teaches about what God’s Word says? I’m not sure I’m following what you’re saying here. I read the Bible and if I have a question I ask the Lord to explain.

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    • Hi Sue,

      See my response to Randy. I think that explains what I am saying here a little more clearly.

      Let me challenge you here. A brother in the Lord, reads the Bible and through prayer becomes utterly convinced that speaking in tongues is for today and begins to seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit. His twin brother, reading the same Bible and praying to the same Lord, comes to be fully convinced that speaking in tongues was something that ONLY happened in the New Testament era and no longer happens today. Who is right? Certainly they both could be wrong, but they both can’t be right. How do we decide which position accurately reflects the truth of Scripture? This happens all the time on all different kinds of topics. We say “the Lord told me” and that is suppose to settle the argument. How does it settle the argument here?

      You’ll recognize that this is a modern day debate, and I don’t bring it up to argue for or against speaking in tongues. So people, PLEASE let’s not get into that discussion! I bring it up to illustrate how tradition can be a valuable aid in clarifying the meaning of Scripture.

      The Catholic and Orthodox church can turn to the writings (traditions) of the early church and see if people were speaking in tongues during that time. If they were, then there is extra biblical evidence that speaking in tongues did occur after the New Testament era and could still be valid today. It obviously happened in the Bible, and if it also happened throughout church history and still happens today, one could conclude that speaking in tongues is a biblical Christian practice.

      If it is absent from the historic record of church history, and only happened in the Bible, then one could argue strongly that it isn’t a practice meant for today.

      That is using tradition to help shape our faith and practice.

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      • I think the bottom line is that we are to read the Bible and follow Christ’s teachings, as we understand them, the best we can. It is our faith and what’s in our heart that He looks at, not if we got it “right.”

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > Tradition vs scripture? How about what the Holy Spirit teaches about what God’s Word says?

        Hey Sue, this is a nice idea but historically it’s been an unmitigated disaster, producing hundreds, thousands of denominations all teaching contradictory truth.

        > I read the Bible and if I have a question I ask the Lord to explain.

        But you wouldn’t claim that you always receive the correct interpretation though, would you?

        > I think the bottom line is that we are to read the Bible and follow Christ’s teachings, as we understand them, the best we can. It is our faith and what’s in our heart that He looks at, not if we got it “right.”

        While the sentiment is nice, I don’t think this really deals with the problems that Jim raises. What happens when two learned, Bible-believing, good-fruit-producing pastors disagree on the interpretation of the passage? Now what?

        For example, does Baptism wash away sin or not? This is an extremely important question that relates to salvation, yet different denominations will give you very different answers. Does it not make sense to look at how the Early Church understood the effects of Baptism? Since these were the Christians who lived through those early persecutions and since these were the Christians who were involved in the settling of the New Testament canon, shouldn’t we listen carefully to what they have to say?

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  2. Paul wrote to the Corinthians church’s Christians who were filled with the Holy Spirit with the gifts of Healing and all the other gifts. They are moving in all the gifts and yet they are causing confusion and they have doctrine errors and problems so much so that Paul had to write to correct them. Likewise it is the same in our present time. Though we are filled with the Holy Spirit and having all the gifts, we still need to learn from Paul’s and all the apostle’s writings in our bible. All the fathers of the church like Augustine and Martin Luther writings are not included in the bible because God did not permit that or because they have doctrinal errors which I think their teachings are really partly wrong. I believe we should study the bible ourselves and also learn from teachers who are truthful in their hearts and others who have sound doctrine knowledge. I have listen to a lot of different teachers from different denominations and because one teaching contradict against another, I get confused. Who is right? I have to test their teachings in order to prove them. Over the years through mistake and error in some of the teachings which I had learn ( because I only get to learn from my own church teachings ), I have learn not to jump into conclusion before I hear others out and check the bible myself. Only then will the Holy Spirit show me the truth if I seek Him diligently which may take quite a long time. There are so many topics to debate that is on going since the early church time until today and every Christians are responsible to find out for themselves because the apostle Peter has warned us in 2 Peter 3:14
    – Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
    3:15
    – And account [that] the longsuffering of our Lord [is] salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
    3:16
    – As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
    3:17
    – Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness..

    It is the same Holy Spirit inside us that will cause us to agree with that which is of God.
    I agree with Jim that many in the church had followed traditions and many have not live out the faith based on scripture.
    Please comment to correct me if I am wrong.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      > … Though we are filled with the Holy Spirit and having all the gifts, we still need to learn from Paul’s and all the apostle’s writings in our bible

      While I agree with the sentiment, you’re coming with a Sola Scriptura presupposition, which is something that Paul never taught (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

      > All the fathers of the church like Augustine and Martin Luther writings are not included in the bible because God did not permit that or because they have doctrinal errors which I think their teachings are really partly wrong

      I’m afraid that this is not the reason their writings were not included in the canon. The primary reason for their exclusion is because their works never even made it onto the shortlist. They never made it onto the shortlist because their writings were not read in the Church’s liturgy. They were never read in the liturgy is because they come far too late in history. The Councils of Rome, Carthage and Hippo of the 4th Century had already spoken concerning the canon.

      There were, however, other books which were strong candidates for inclusion in the Bible such as the Shepherd of Hermas, Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians and the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch.

      > I believe we should study the bible ourselves…

      The trouble with this statement is that (a) you presuppose Sola Scriptura and (b) you presuppose what the Bible’s Table of Contents looks like. Without Sacred Tradition, one cannot speak about “The Bible” since it is Sacred Tradition which says which books should be included.

      For example, you mentioned Luther earlier. He tried to remove the epistle of James from the Canon because it interfered with his doctrine of Sola Fide. Without Sacred Tradition, it’s not really possible to explain why he was wrong in trying to do this.

      > …and also learn from teachers who are truthful in their hearts and others who have sound doctrine knowledge

      But how do you discern that? Would you include Calvin? Augustine? Luther? Jerome?

      > I have listen to a lot of different teachers from different denominations and because one teaching contradict against another… I have learn not to jump into conclusion before I hear others out and check the bible myself. Only then will the Holy Spirit show me the truth if I seek Him diligently which may take quite a long time

      Why do you think that you will come to the truth when these others haven’t? Do you think that they haven’t studied properly? Do you think that they are purposefully misleading people? When you come to your own conclusions, are you certain that you have correctly interpreted the Bible?

      > There are so many topics to debate that is on going since the early church time until today…

      Such as?

      > …and every Christians are responsible to find out for themselves because the apostle Peter has warned us in 2 Peter 3:14

      That passage says that Scripture can be twisted and misinterpreted, leading to the reader’s destruction. Peter exhorts his readers to beware, lest they are led astray. I wouldn’t translate his message as “Go interpret the Bible for yourself”, that’s exactly what was getting people into the problem in the first place!

      > It is the same Holy Spirit inside us that will cause us to agree with that which is of God

      If this will necessarily happen, how do you explain the confusion in the Protestant world which you described earlier? How would you respond to Jim’s question above concerning the twin Christians who come to different interpretations of Scripture?

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  3. I don’t consult scripture when deciding whether or not I need an aspirin for a headache, wool or cotton socks, play golf Friday or Saturday, etc etc etc. If I were a city mayor, I wouldn’t consult scripture on whether our water supplies need Grade 3 purification or only Grade 1.
    If I was deciding whether to marry a woman, I would certainly read what scripture has to say about marriage, seek wise Christian counsel and pray for guidance.
    So scripture plays a major role in the Christian’s life and any decision obviously contrary to scripture needs examination. But, similar to those who argue the U.S. Constitution is all anyone needs for good modern government, scripture just doesn’t deal with many things today. God expects us to use our brains.
    If Jim is saying each of us needs to study scripture, pray for guidance and meaning and not rely on the interpretations of others ( past or present ), I agree.

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    • “If Jim is saying each of us needs to study scripture, pray for guidance and meaning and not rely on the interpretations of others ( past or present ), I agree.”

      Actually, I am not saying that at all.

      By Sola Scriptura, we Protestants mean that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source for all doctrine and practice (faith and morality). We don’t require anything but the Bible to come to our conclusions about what Christianity is. Further, the principals that flow out of that understanding guide the follower of Christ in the way they should live. The Catholic church and the Orthodox church both also rely on the oral and written traditions of the early church to help shape their understanding. The writings of the early church Fathers, the councils, etc.

      For example, Clement of Rome knew Peter and Paul personally and was a disciple of both of them. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were disciples of the Apostle John. Naturally we would expect that those who were personally taught by the Apostles would themselves believe and teach correctly. The writings of these men have help shape the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of Christian doctrine and practice and help clarify the teachings of scripture.

      My point is that we protestants protesteth too much! While we berate the Catholic and the Orthodox for their use of tradition to help shape their understanding, we do the very same thing. Our tradition is much younger though. We don’t go back to Ignatious, Polycarp or Clement of Rome and others. We go the recent past and consult Calvin, Luther, Knox and the others. Though we claim that the Scripture alone is sufficient, we rely on the traditions of these men to interpret what it means. Every wing of the church uses tradition.

      Randy, the idea that each of us can decide what the truth is about Christianity is a relatively new idea. It is why there are so many different Protestant churches! Each of us should remember that we are not the first ones to follow Christ! There have been multitudes of great men and women who have lived and died for Christ down through the ages. Some of them left writings that we can read and others live on only in the oral tradition of the church. We don’t have to re-invent Christianity every 30 years. We certainly shouldn’t think that we are left to our own devices to figure it out.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > My point is that we protestants protesteth too much!

        Nice line – I’m stealing that 🙂

        > While we berate the Catholic and the Orthodox for their use of tradition to help shape their understanding, we do the very same thing. Our tradition is much younger though

        …except in certain cases, when they feel free to borrow: Sunday worship, New Testament canon, the Trinity, …

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  4. Reblogged this on Coolmusings.

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  5. Good post and good reminder that Christianity is a historic faith that was handed down from God to man and then to other trustworthy men.

    The Catholic church and the Orthodox church both also rely on the oral and written traditions of the early church to help shape their understanding. The writings of the early church Fathers, the councils, etc.

    I think an important principle in developing theology is to look at the history of the doctrine or idea. If a doctrinal idea or interpretation is introduced late then it should be looked more stringently and held more loosely.

    But that is why I would consider myself paleo-orthodox and look to the early church writings as guides to theological doctrine and historic interpretations. After all they knew the language, culture, and context better than we do. And many have ties to apostolic churches.

    While we berate the Catholic and the Orthodox for their use of tradition to help shape their understanding, we do the very same thing.

    The important difference between Catholics and Protestants on this is how high we are to regard tradition (ie early church writings). I reject the idea that these writings are inspired or authoritative. Rather I see them as guide posts and “bumpers on the bowling alley” of theological development.

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    • “The important difference between Catholics and Protestants on this is how high we are to regard tradition (ie early church writings). I reject the idea that these writings are inspired or authoritative. Rather I see them as guide posts and “bumpers on the bowling alley” of theological development.”

      That is an important distinction and I agree with you.

      For the most part, the Protestant church ignores the early church. I have a degree in Theology, and have a library with entire shelves dedicated to Protestant theological works of every stripe! None of them give any real substantial treatment of the Fathers. In seminary, my Church History classes hurried past the early church to get to the Reformation period. I pastored a church for over 10 years and knew NOTHING really, about the early church.

      It was later in life that I found them. I cherish them now. Now that I have read them, I understand why we hide them from the people in the pew and our leaders. If Calvin had lived in the 3rd century, I don’t think it a huge leap to imagine him being labeled a heretic by the church of that day. I am not saying he was one, but I am also not saying he wasn’t.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > If Calvin had lived in the 3rd century, I don’t think it a huge leap to imagine him being labeled a heretic by the church of that day. I am not saying he was one, but I am also not saying he wasn’t.

        It’s interesting to note that Calvin denied the authorship of Ignatius’ epistles because they were just too Catholic:

        “With regard to what they pretend as to Ignatius, if they would have it to be of the least importance, let them prove that the apostles enacted laws concerning Lent, and other corruptions. Nothing can be more nauseating, than the absurdities which have been published under the name of Ignatius; and therefore, the conduct of those who provide themselves with such masks for deception is the less entitled to toleration.”

        He was wrong, of course…

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      • For the most part, the Protestant church ignores the early church.

        Sad. But True.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      > I think an important principle in developing theology is to look at the history of the doctrine or idea. If a doctrinal idea or interpretation is introduced late then it should be looked more stringently and held more loosely

      I agree, although I would ask what counts as “late”? 2nd Century? 3rd? 4th? For example, we have examples of Marian interception from the early third century:

      Beneath your compassion we take refuge, Theotokos [God bearer]!
      Our prayers, do not despise our petitions in time of trouble,
      but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.
      – Early Christian Hymn (c. AD 250)

      Does that count at too late?

      > But that is why I would consider myself paleo-orthodox and look to the early church writings as guides to theological doctrine and historic interpretations. After all they knew the language, culture, and context better than we do. And many have ties to apostolic churches

      Great stuff. However, don’t you fall into the danger of antiquarianism? For example, do you believe in the Trinity? That doctrine wasn’t fully articulated until later in Christian history (although Tertullian started work on this in the Second Century).

      While meditating on the Deposit of Faith, doesn’t the Church come to understand it more deeply? When defending against heresy doesn’t the Church need to define more precisely what She believes, such as at Nicaea? Put simply, doesn’t doctrine develop?

      > The important difference between Catholics and Protestants on this is how high we are to regard tradition (ie early church writings)

      Wouldn’t you say that most Protestants completely ignore the Early Church Fathers? That has been my experience. The only exception I’ve generally encountered is Calvinists since Calvin tried very hard to square his doctrine with the Early Church in the Institutes.

      > I reject the idea that these writings are inspired or authoritative. Rather I see them as guide posts and “bumpers on the bowling alley” of theological development

      Neither Catholic nor Orthodox would regard them as “inspired” in the sense that we use to refer to Scripture. They would, however, regard them as authoritative where there is consensus patrum, a clear consensus of the Fathers, demonstrating that what they are teaching is not something that they made up, but part of the Deposit of Faith which was handed on to them.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        what counts as “late”?

        Good question.

        I think Vincent of Lerins gives guide advice when he asks and answers two questions:
        (1) How do we distinguish truth from falsehood in the Scriptures? follow [the rule of] universality, antiquity, consent
        (2) Shall there be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly! On condition it is real progress not alteration of the faith

        The issue is more about tracing the development of the doctrine.
        Is the doctrine or key elements tracable to early writings? How early?
        Is there consent for the doctrine or key elements across multiple early authors?
        How does one trace the doctrine or key elements to Scripture?

        Mary … Does that count at too late?

        If that is the earliest occurrence then yes.

        Put simply, doesn’t doctrine develop?

        See above.

        do you believe in the Trinity?

        Yes. And although the term Trinity started with Tertullian, the concept (God is 3 in 1) existed earlier.

        Here we have a good example of a doctrine that has good Scriptural support, multiple attestations and very early support.

        Also it is important to note that many “Trinitarian” Christians (ie against Arianism) balked at the original Nicean creed b/c it went beyond what Scripture said. Athanasius had to defend the definition of the creed to them. So while I accept the Nicean definition I would not say that the Nicean creed definition is required per se (what does it mean to say God has substance?), but acceptance of the Triune God is.

        Wouldn’t you say that most Protestants completely ignore the Early Church Fathers?

        yes.

        The only exception I’ve generally encountered is Calvinists…

        IMO Wesley had a better affirmation of the early church (pre-Augustine) and his theology is more in line with it. Calvin does say in the Preface that he does not oppose the “Fathers” (ie ancient writers) but in practice relies more on Augustine. In fact he (wrongly) asserts:

        “all the ancients, save Augustine, so differ, waver, or speak confusedly on this subject (ie Free Will), that almost nothing certain can be derived from their writings” – Calvin/Institutes Book 2 Chapter 2

        Neither Catholic nor Orthodox would regard them as “inspired” in the sense that we use to refer to Scripture.

        Doesn’t the CCC on the Vatican site state:

        “It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others.”

        and

        “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God”

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        >> what counts as “late”?

        Good question…

        I agree with everything you say here, but you don’t give me a hard date.

        >> Mary … Does that count at too late?

        If that is the earliest occurrence then yes.

        I see a couple of problems with this:

        (a) If AD 250 is too late then what does that really leave? You’re pretty much restricting yourself to the apostolic fathers and a few others, no?

        (b) If AD 250 is too late then it seems to me like you’re coming at this with an extremely Sola Scriptura mindset. For example, the first documentary evidence we have for Marian invocation is AD 250, but it seems strange to assume that this was the date of its introduction.

        Didn’t Irenaeus say in his time (AD 180) “For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary to follow the course of the Tradition that they handed down to those to whom they committed the churches?”

        What is the latest date for an early occurrence which you’ll allow?

        > Here we have a good example of a doctrine that has good Scriptural support, multiple attestations and very early support

        Hmm…that could be debated, depending upon what timeframe you’re allowing here. It’s also worth pointing out that the early Fathers stumble in more than one place concerning the Trinity (hardly surprising!) but you see an incredibly smooth development of Marian doctrine.

        > Also it is important to note that many “Trinitarian” Christians (ie against Arianism) balked at the original Nicean creed b/c it went beyond what Scripture said.

        It wasn’t so much that it went beyond what Scripture said, it’s that it expressed it in non-Biblical language. This was necessary because the Arians could affirm everything if it was given in Biblical language, since the words had latitude in their meaning. With homoousios, that wasn’t possible.

        > So while I accept the Nicean definition I would not say that the Nicean creed definition is required per se (what does it mean to say God has substance?), but acceptance of the Triune God is

        But surely by saying “Triune God” you’ve gone “beyond Scripture” again?

        > IMO Wesley had a better affirmation of the early church (pre-Augustine) and his theology is more in line with it

        I have far more time for Wesley 🙂

        > Calvin does say in the Preface that he does not oppose the “Fathers” (ie ancient writers) but in practice relies more on Augustine. In fact he (wrongly) asserts…

        Yeah, on more than one point I find Calvin extremely conflicted.

        > Doesn’t the CCC on the Vatican site state: “It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others.”

        Yes, but “Sacred Tradition” doesn’t mean “Everything each Church Father says”.

        > “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God”

        Yes, but that doesn’t yield the title of “inspired” to the works of the Fathers. Kudos for quoting the Catechism though 🙂

        Out of interest, given what you’ve said, would it be correct to say that you affirm the following:

        1. Baptism by sprinkling
        2. Real Presence
        3. The Eucharist is a sacrifice
        4. Baptismal regeneration
        5. Infant baptism
        6. Mary as “New Eve”
        7. Apostolic Succession
        8. Three-fold hierarchy in the Church
        9. The involvement of works in salvation

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        • “(b) If AD 250 is too late then it seems to me like you’re coming at this with an extremely Sola Scriptura mindset. For example, the first documentary evidence we have for Marian invocation is AD 250, but it seems strange to assume that this was the date of its introduction.”

          I agree with you on this one. The inscription probably wasn’t written down the first time it happened!

          I accept the historical fact that the church, sometime after the New Testament works had all been written, and the Apostles had all died off, began to pray to Mary. This prayer to Mary is the earliest evidence of that. However, there is not a lot of evidence of it being a widespread practice in the early church. Lactantius wrote about this very thing and said:

          It is clear that those who make prayers to the dead…do not act as becomes men. They will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt. Rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, they have undertaken unforgiveable rites. They have violated every sacred law.”

          This is one of those issues for me where I question the legitimacy of the tradition. The apostles never prayed to the departed Mary, nor did they write the churches and instruct them to do so, nor did their disciples who we call the earliest of the church Fathers. It is a practice that sprung up and took root later, much later.

          However, with that said, I don’t think the issue of praying to Mary or praying to Saints is that big of a deal. I wrote about some of these difference we have in an earlier post called “Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences.”

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        • 1.Baptism by sprinkling
          2.Real Presence 5.Infant baptism
          6.Mary as “New Eve”
          7.Apostolic Succession
          3.The Eucharist is a sacrifice
          4.Baptismal regeneration

          8.Three-fold hierarchy in the Church
          9.The involvement of works in salvation

          The early church most definitely believed that baptism was where someone became a believer and where your initial sins were washed away. The evidence for this is vast. Here is a sample of it:

          “The washing of repentance and knowledge of God has been ordained on account of the transgression of God’s people, as Isaiah cries. Accordingly, we have believed and testify that the very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented. And this is the water of life.” Justin Martyr c. 160ad

          “We who have approached God through Him have received, not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism by God’s mercy, since we were sinners. And all men alike may obtain it.” Justin Martyr

          “When we come to refute them (the Gnostics), we will show in its proper place that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God. Thus, they have renounced the whole faith…For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins.” Irenaeus c. 180ad

          The Catholic and Orthodox church are much truer to the early church than Protestants on this topic. We believe that there is no real power at all in Baptism. Nothing really happens there. It is simply the external evidence of one becoming a follower of Christ. Are we to believe that the disciples of the apostles got this whole baptism thing wrong and then passed it down to their followers in the same incorrect manner? As protestants we must believe that they got it wrong, and 1500 years later Luther got it right.

          But that is a slippery slope! Protestants reject this because viewing baptism the way the early church did seems like works. One must have faith AND be baptized to be saved. That looks like Faith + works to a protestant. If that is actually what is going on here, then one could argue that the early, early church believed that salvation involved faith plus works.

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      • “Wouldn’t you say that most Protestants completely ignore the Early Church Fathers? That has been my experience.”

        Can you blame us? I can tell you from experience that it is sometimes quite painful to read the early church fathers. They force you to critically think about what you believe. Those who give the Fathers a fair and open minded read and compare their theology and ecclesiology to their own don’t sleep well for a few weeks!

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        you don’t give me a hard date

        I think if you re-read what I wrote you would see that a date is part of the evaluation. But it is more about a doctrinal trail of consensus starting with Scripture and visible through the early church writings than it is about establishing a cut off.

        I see a couple of problems (ie Mary)

        I think Jim explained this well.
        But to show what Vincent of Lerins is advocating:
        1. No Scriptural support for praying to Mary
        2. No 2nd century support for praying to Mary
        3. Limited 3rd century support for praying to Mary (1)
        4. Others 3rd century advocated against praying to Mary (1)

        Therefore there is no reason to accept the idea of praying to Mary as something that was passed on by the Apostles and their followers.

        Trinity

        I know why those at Nicea added the wording they did. The fact is that the idea of God being a substance may or may not be an accurate way to describe Him. I accept the definition as well as the concepts that it is trying to articulate. Nor would I say the path NIcea was smooth or crystal clear. I would say that Scripture and ECF writings show that they believed in One God and that the Father/Son/Spirit were also all God.

        Yes, but “Sacred Tradition” doesn’t mean “Everything each Church Father says”.

        Only what the Magisterium affirms right? 🙂

        that doesn’t yield the title of “inspired” to the works of the Fathers.

        I’ll let you explain how that is the case more fully.

        Regarding your list, that is a larger discussion on each of these than can be taken on in some comments on a blog.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > I accept the historical fact that the church, sometime after the New Testament works had all been written, and the Apostles had all died off, began to pray to Mary. This prayer to Mary is the earliest evidence of that. However, there is not a lot of evidence of it being a widespread practice in the early church.

        When placed against the limited dataset we have for those early centuries, I’d say it’s quite compelling. Just as when a Protestant complains that something “…isn’t in the Bible” we have to ask what would occasion the writing down of a particular doctrine.

        > Lactantius wrote about this very thing and said

        If you read that quotation in context you’ll see that he’s referring to pagans who are making idols of dead men and worshipping the idols and appealing for these dead mean to act out on their behalf – that’s not Christian Saintly intercession.

        > This is one of those issues for me where I question the legitimacy of the tradition. The apostles never prayed to the departed Mary, nor did they write the churches and instruct them to do so

        We don’t have documentary evidence that they did. There’s a difference.

        > …nor did their disciples who we call the earliest of the church Fathers. It is a practice that sprung up and took root later, much later.

        AD 250 is pretty early for Marian intercession to already be in the liturgy and put to music.

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        • “and appealing for these dead mean to act out on their behalf – that’s not Christian Saintly intercession.”

          But it is praying to the departed and asking them to act on ones behalf. I think that is a significant similarity.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          Praying to a Zeus for a particular intension is similar to petitioning the Christ..but not the same, since one exists and the other does not.

          Likewise, there is a similarity between Pagans appealing to the dead to act on their behalf and Christians asking those united with Christ to pray for them…but it’s not the same.

          Like

        • OK, I will bite. How are they different?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          Because there’s no necromancy or the like with Saintly Intercession. We are united with the dead in Christ for that very reason – they are in Christ – and “neither life nor death…can separate us from the love of Christ”. We are still part of the same Body, the same Church.

          It is therefore through Him, with Him and in Him that we are united with the blessed departed, that they can hear our requests and petition before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8).

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        • I do understand that distinction. At the same time, the quote is about praying to the dead and though the saints live on in another realm, they have indeed died in the sense we understand death. If a person prays to a non-Christian person who dies, say Ghandi or ones great grand mother, that would not be an acceptable practice would it? Though Ghandi is dead, is he not still alive in the next realm?

          David, I have come to the point theologically where I don’t have a problem with the western or eastern church praying to the saints. I think I get the gist of why it is done. I am still not convinced that it is an important or correct practice.

          Would you say that praying to the saints is a non-essential doctrine?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > At the same time, the quote is about praying to the dead and though the saints live on in another realm, they have indeed died in the sense we understand death.

          And what is that sense? Their soul is with God and their body lies in the ground awaiting the Resurrection.

          > If a person prays to a non-Christian person who dies, say Ghandi or ones great grand mother, that would not be an acceptable practice would it? Though Ghandi is dead, is he not still alive in the next realm?

          Not really, but it rather depends upon the state of that person’s soul. Is he/she now worshipping before the throne of God? If not, there’s not much that person can do for me.

          > David, I have come to the point theologically where I don’t have a problem with the western or eastern church praying to the saints. I think I get the gist of why it is done. I am still not convinced that it is an important or correct practice. Would you say that praying to the saints is a non-essential doctrine?

          That’s more of a Protestant idea: essential vs. non-essential doctrine. The Catholic Church doesn’t really make distinctions like that. Instead, she proclaims the Faith handed down and invites us to embrace it.

          (Just in case you meant something else… Saintly Intercession is Church doctrine whereas, say, Limbo has just been non-binding theological speculation)

          As to its importance, I’d say that, in the Communion of Saints and Saintly Intercession, our theology concerning Christ’s body is “fleshed out”, so to speak, enhancing our vision of the Church and the covenant bonds brought about in Christ, the True Vine. I’ve mentioned this before, but we have gravestone inscriptions where we see that the Early Christians (AD 300) saw the intimate nature of the Church on earth with the Church in Heaven: “Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days”.

          It also enhances our understanding of Heaven. As I wrote in a comment to you on my blog, St. Therese of Lisieux said “I shall spend my heaven doing good on earth”. Earth is practice for Heaven 🙂

          Like

        • If a person prays to a non-Christian person who dies, say Ghandi or ones great grand mother, that would not be an acceptable practice would it? Though Ghandi is dead, is he not still alive in the next realm?

          Not really, but it rather depends upon the state of that person’s soul. Is he/she now worshipping before the throne of God? If not, there’s not much that person can do for me.

          I want to make sure I understand your point. Are you saying that Praying to the Christian dead, is not really praying to the dead, because they are not really dead and therefore Lactantius statement doesn’t apply? But it would apply to praying to the non-chrisitian dead because even though they are not dead either, they are not in God’s presence?

          Likewise, there is a similarity between Pagans appealing to the dead to act on their behalf and Christians asking those united with Christ to pray for them…but it’s not the same.

          Can you please explain how this is not the same category of thing?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > Can you please explain how this is not the same category of thing?

          Would you view praying to Zeus and praying to YHWH as being in the same category?

          > I want to make sure I understand your point. Are you saying that Praying to the Christian dead, is not really praying to the dead, because they are not really dead and therefore Lactantius statement doesn’t apply? But it would apply to praying to the non-chrisitian dead because even though they are not dead either, they are not in God’s presence?

          I’ve never heard anyone express it in these terms, but pretty much, yeah, that’s how I think of it:

          What is the means of communication with the dead? Magic/witchcraft/necromancy…or is it by virtue of communion with Christ and the fact that the “dead” in Christ are, in fact, alive with Him in Heaven?

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        • Can you please explain how this is not the same category of thing?

          Would you view praying to Zeus and praying to YHWH as being in the same category?

          No, I wouldn’t. But I would put praying to my dead non-Christian grand-mother and praying to my dead Christian Mother into the same category of things.

          “I’ve never heard anyone express it in these terms, but pretty much, yeah, that’s how I think of it:’

          Would you feel confident is saying that that is how the Magisterium would understand it?

          the important thing for me in this area is clarity, not agreement.:)

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > No, I wouldn’t. But I would put praying to my dead non-Christian grand-mother and praying to my dead Christian Mother into the same category of things.

          Why wouldn’t you put praying to a false God and praying to the true God into the same category?

          > Would you feel confident is saying that that is how the Magisterium would understand it?

          I think I would. Here are some extracts from the Catechism, paragraphs 955-962, which speak about the communion of the Saints by emphasizing the fact that Christians on earth and in Heaven are joined in and through Christ:

          “So it is that the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods… Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness… They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us… So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped… Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”

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        • Why wouldn’t you put praying to a false God and praying to the true God into the same category?

          I think it is obvious: One is a real being and the other is not. Asking a dead non-Christian to do something is in the same category of things as asking a dead Christian to do something. Both are real beings who live on in the next phase prior to the final judgment.

          Asking the Easter Bunny to do something for you is not the same category of thing as asking the true and living God to do something.

          You have helped me understand the Catholic and probably the Orthodox view on this more clearly.

          Where does the Church stand on praying to the non saintly dead in Purgatory? Is that acceptable, encouraged or rejected as a practice?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > I think it is obvious: One is a real being and the other is not

          But the act on the part of the person looks the same – there’s no discernable difference. The only difference is who’s on the other end of the line.

          > Where does the Church stand on praying to the non saintly dead in Purgatory? Is that acceptable, encouraged or rejected as a practice?

          Acceptable and encouraged. From the same section of the Catechism:

          958 Communion with the dead. “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.” Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

          …and a little later in paragraph 1032:

          This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

          Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

          On a personal note, I’d say that praying for the dead is the most natural thing in the world. People of faith do it automatically upon the death of a loved one. I’ve been around Protestants who know that they’re not meant to do it and so jump through silly linguistic hoops as to try and avoid it.

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        • I think praying for the dead, and to the dead are different things.

          And with that, the comments on this post have set a new NotForItchingEars.com record!

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > I think praying for the dead, and to the dead are different things

          Agreed 🙂

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          This is what happens when our theology of the Church is disintegrates:

          Liked by 1 person

        • That chart is very disheartening, but I am not surprised.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          The things is, this is the trajectory Protestantism has taken – individualism.

          The reasons for this are many, but I would suggest that it primarily begins with Sola Scriptura (“Why do I need other Christians when the Holy Spirit teaches me directly?”) and is compounded many times over by a rejection of the apostolic teaching concerning the Eucharist (“Why do I need to go to church if all I’m just going to sing some songs and listen to a talk?”).

          (Please note, I’m not saying all Protestants believe this, I’m just trying to show that there are ingredients inherent within Protestantism which foster an individualistic mentality)

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        • (“Why do I need to go to church if all I’m just going to sing some songs and listen to a talk?”).

          I hate to admit it, but that is exactly how I often feel! But I still go!

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  6. Restless Pilgrim

    > Sola scriptura as a principal states that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian… It sounds good on paper.

    Non-inspired paper, of course, and therefore not binding… 😉

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  7. Restless Pilgrim

    > A classic example of this is the Pre-tribulation rapture theory… They fail to see that this is simply a tradition of man that has been passed down since the 1800’s

    …and also believe that Christians for 1,800 years got this wrong. That’s a heck of a lot of time and doesn’t speak very highly of God’s providence.

    Also, if it took 1,800 years for Christians to “get” the pre-trib rapture doctrine down, what else in historic Christianity still needs to be fixed? As such, every Christian doctrine, no matter how ancient is up for grabs…

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  8. Well then, with Jim’s new church and all, let’s get on with it. Hoop-la! I have thoroughly enjoyed this post with its theatrical comments, all arguing for the betterment of Christianity. “Give the boys a hand” (you too ladies).

    First, to my friend the “restless pilgrim,” it is a bit too arrogant to impose upon we readers that our friends Luther and Calvin had no cause to be at dismay with your forefathers (and I will admit mine), for there were many reasons to stand against the tradition that could find no support in Scripture, such as “For fifty bucks, I’ll give you a front room dining suite in heaven.

    The problem as has been proven with tradition is that it is totally in the hands of human beings, and I guarantee that if you give me some ground, I’ll take advantage of you, just as the Church was doing when Luther broke out hammer and nail to oppose..

    This is why the Protestant insistent plea of Authority stands “in Scripture alone,” because every time we give humanity some say-so, we end up regretting it. I also, like my restless friend, think that Protestantism has missed the boat no less than these he stands with, but I am not willing to return to a sinking ship that has previously proven cannot stay afloat… Catholicism.

    Still, as Jim confesses, we Pro’s have tradition of our own, and while we may deny it, just follow a couple of Calvinistic posts and you’ll know it exists.

    Maybe, just maybe, our dilemma is centrally located in our inability to read the Scriptures as they were intended to be read, from an author of long ago to an audience from long ago. Maybe God is big enough to write to an audience in the first century but then write something meaningful, but seemingly different culturally, to me and my generation also, even though we can’t fathom the mandated comparison.

    Like

    • “first, to my friend the “restless pilgrim,” it is a bit too arrogant to impose upon we readers that our friends Luther and Calvin had no cause to be at dismay with your forefathers (and I will admit mine), for there were many reasons to stand against the tradition that could find no support in Scripture, such as “For fifty bucks, I’ll give you a front room dining suite in heaven.”

      The Catholic church herself makes a distinction between Tradition with a capital T and tradition with a lower case t. The lower case traditions can be changed or abandoned because they are not on the same level as Sacred Tradition. Restless can correct me if I am wrong, but I think the indulgence thing falls into the lower t type of tradition and has been abandoned.

      Sometimes I wonder what the landscape of The Church would look like if Luther and the other Reformers would have been more patient with the process. Or, what the church would look like today if the Reformers looked eastward for their answers instead of walking away and starting a new kind of church. The kind of church that gave birth to the idea that you and I can decide what the truth is and we can change it any time we want, and if we can gather enough people around us we can call it a church.

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      • I thought to attract some chastisement with my musings, but not so much, at least not yet. In reality, I have come to appreciate being able to learn more of the “why’s” our Catholic friends conduct themselves with in worship. When one takes the time to learn from those who know, rather than our too often method of listening to those who are in disagreement with, much about the Sacraments actually make sense.

        Some time back, I read Alistair McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea,” a work showing how the Reformation has created this mindset you describe, even with your Church of the Sarcasm, that because everyone should have access to the Scriptures, then everyone should be equipped to interpret it. The author even describes Luther, realizing he may have stepped a little farther across the line than needed, trying to slow the process, but it was too late. This author believes the Protestant movement is on the threshold of imploding, due to it being fractured to an uncountable number of denominations. Statistics definitely show that in Western cultures, congregational numbers are decreasing.

        Not really sure where all this ends up but it is definitely worthy of discussing. Once again, very enjoyable post and comments.

        Like

      • MT, I am sure the Chastisement is coming :0

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > Restless can correct me if I am wrong, but I think the indulgence thing falls into the lower t type of tradition and has been abandoned.

        Indulgences still exist (you can get one by reading the Bible for half an hour), but they’re not sold because of the misapprehension associated with it.

        > Sometimes I wonder what the landscape of The Church would look like if Luther and the other Reformers would have been more patient with the process.

        Look at the reforms following Trent. Liturgical abuses brought to an end and a reinvigorated faith.

        > Or, what the church would look like today if the Reformers looked eastward for their answers instead of walking away and starting a new kind of church.

        If you’re referring to the Eastern Orthodox, I think it could look a little different, at least for some of the Magesterial Reformers. However, as soon as you have Sola Scriptura, all bets are off.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > I thought to attract some chastisement with my musings, but not so much, at least not yet.

        Brace yourself… 😉

        > In reality, I have come to appreciate being able to learn more of the “why’s” our Catholic friends conduct themselves with in worship. When one takes the time to learn from those who know, rather than our too often method of listening to those who are in disagreement with, much about the Sacraments actually make sense.

        Yeah, I don’t think you can read the Early Church without seeing the centrality of the Sacraments as a means of participating in the covenant of grace in Christ, especially the Eucharist which is “the medicine of immortality” (Ignatius of Antioch)

        > Some time back, I read Alistair McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea,” a work showing how the Reformation has created this mindset you describe, even with your Church of the Sarcasm, that because everyone should have access to the Scriptures, then everyone should be equipped to interpret it.

        Yeah, I’d say that this was the fundamental issue and the source of all Protestantism’s problems. If nobody is Pope, everybody is Pope, an this nurtures an individualism which requires that you answer to no one.

        > The author even describes Luther, realizing he may have stepped a little farther across the line than needed, trying to slow the process, but it was too late.

        I’d agree with that assessment. He realized he had opened Pandora’s Box. When he proclaimed Sola Scriptura, he did it on the assumption that everyone would see the same “plain sense” of Scripture that he saw. When this didn’t happen, he started to see that he had no solid means to correct these other interpretations since each individual had become his own Magesterium.

        > This author believes the Protestant movement is on the threshold of imploding, due to it being fractured to an uncountable number of denominations. Statistics definitely show that in Western cultures, congregational numbers are decreasing.

        I wouldn’t just point to numbers, I’d point to doctrine. How many traditional Christian beliefs are still present in the various Protestant congregations?

        How many of them even hold to the beliefs of their founders? To pick just one example, how many Lutherans, Calvinists or Methodists would condemn contraception in their way Luther, Calvin and Wesley did?

        Of course, we could pick pretty much any other issue and see wide variance across the board. I would argue that this all ultimately stems from Sola Scriptura.

        > Not really sure where all this ends up but it is definitely worthy of discussing. Once again, very enjoyable post and comments

        Absolutely 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Restless Pilgrim

      > First, to my friend the “restless pilgrim,” it is a bit too arrogant to impose upon we readers that our friends Luther and Calvin had no cause to be at dismay with your forefathers (and I will admit mine)

      I’m not quite sure to what you are referring. All I did was point out the opinions of some of the Reformers, that many reformers didn’t try to reconcile their doctrine with that of the Early Church, that Calvin did attempt to do this, although he rejected Ignatius as a forgery since he looked too Catholic.

      > …for there were many reasons to stand against the tradition that could find no support in Scripture, such as “For fifty bucks, I’ll give you a front room dining suite in heaven

      I can’t think of anything in the Early Church Fathers that taught this. Even at the time of the Reformation, the selling of indulgences didn’t buy you Heaven.

      > The problem as has been proven with tradition is that it is totally in the hands of human beings…

      Proven how?

      > …and I guarantee that if you give me some ground, I’ll take advantage of you, just as the Church was doing when Luther broke out hammer and nail to oppose..

      Have you read Luther’s ninety-five theses? They are awfully Catholic!

      > This is why the Protestant insistent plea of Authority stands “in Scripture alone,” because every time we give humanity some say-so, we end up regretting it.

      Not all traditions are traditions of men (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

      > I also, like my restless friend, think that Protestantism has missed the boat no less than these he stands with, but I am not willing to return to a sinking ship that has previously proven cannot stay afloat… Catholicism

      How is the Catholic Church a sinking ship? If it’s the Church of history then it possess the promises of Christ that the gates of Hell will not overcome her.

      In terms of things not staying afloat, I think a far stronger case could be made for Protestantism: repeated schism, doctrinal chaos, moral laxity, …

      Like

      • Ah, finally. I am relieved as I feared my musings would go untouched. Yes, and actually, beyond my fetid indocile, as I study the likes of Enns and most recently referenced Wright, I find it interesting that much of contemporary studies are pointing closer and closer back to what is already and has been doctrines of the age-old Catholic Church. Examples have been discussed here already, like eschatology, but there are more. Such as, studies in Genesis, and the history of Israel. Who knows? We may all end up back together after all. Thanks for the chastisement good friend… if anyone needs it, one would be me.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I have nothing insightful to add…but I’m pleased to have read ALL of these comments and am fairly excited about Jim’s new /sarcasm church. That’s something I can get behind. Take my money, I soooo excited… This changes EVERYTHING. 🙂 You guys are great. Really awesome–not sarcasm.

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  10. I can go as far as reading and considering the writings of men — be they bishops, popes, theologians, etc. But I can’t put those writings on par with Scripture, which I believe to be God-inspired. I think “traditions” can be a slippery slope if we’re not careful.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      How do you get to “Scripture”, without “Tradition”? The Table of Contents in your Bible was not written by an inspired author. It was the authority and tradition of the Church which assembled it.

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  11. Shalom. Dear beloved.

    My questions are :

    2 Thes 2:15
    – Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

    Paul must have taught the gentile churches his jewish traditions i.e. of Christ only. Otherwise I will stick to my own tradition. Are any of the fathers of the church jews?
    Mat 15:9
    – But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.

    How do we confirm any doctrine? What basis or method to confirm them? Are all the writings of every fathers of the church correct? And are they perfect that they cannot make mistakes nor errors in their writings of doctrines?

    15:3
    – But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
    * Without Sacred Tradition, one cannot speak about “The Bible” since it is Sacred Tradition which says which books should be included.

    Even the jew’s traditions are at fault. What do you think of our present church’s traditions? One cannot be sure unless it is written in our bible which God had gave us.

    Or are we to doubt that our bible is not sufficient to confirm the accuracy of each doctrine? Why is it that the apostle Thomas letters or Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians not included in the bible?

    *the reason their writings were not included in the canon. They never made it onto the shortlist because their writings were not read in the Church’s liturgy.
    

    Did the bible we have today originated or begun from the Canon? I think NOT as I had check from the internet (Pls correct me if I am wrong). I have doubt with the Canon as Emperor Constantine has the power over Council of Niacea in 325 AD and I do not trust them at ALL.

    During Paul’s time there were already many false writings on doctrines.
    Gal 1:6
    – I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
    1:7
    – Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    I ONLY trust the bible. EVEN the bible has been attacked by SATAN – KJV, NIV, etc.

    -   are you certain that you have correctly interpreted the Bible?
    

    My only certainty is an answer found in the bible itself. If I had interpreted wrongly, pls. correct me by giving me an answer from the bible.

    • learn from teachers who are truthful in their hearts and others who have sound doctrine knowledge
      Even good teachers can make mistake. We ought to know a person if his heart is right by looking at how they live. Are they walking in Love, honesty, righteously or are they deceitful?

      • how do you discern that? Would you include Calvin? Augustine? Luther? Jerome?
        I can’t because I never seen them and they are not here. l did heard about comments on some of their writings (Luther’s book on Jews caused hatred of Jews).
        *Why do you think that you will come to the truth when these others haven’t? Do you think that they haven’t studied properly?
        I think they are seeking for answers but still there so many false writings that might have mislead them as it is today. I trust the bible is the only right answer.

        • That passage (2 Peter 3:15 – 17) says that Scripture can be twisted and misinterpreted, leading to the reader’s destruction. Peter exhorts his readers to beware, lest they are led astray. I wouldn’t translate his message as “Go interpret the Bible for yourself”, that’s exactly what was getting people into the problem in the first place!
        • You are right. This is the problem we face. I will only interpret bible from the bible and nothing of my own opinion without backing from the bible. Otherwise I can interpret as I like which is wrong.
        • That passage says that Scripture can be twisted and misinterpreted, leading to the reader’s destruction.
          Yes. To interpret the bible without backing from other scriptures is very DANGEROUS and will caused us to perish. Many greedy false teachers has twisted the scripture.

    As for the below questions, Please help me with your understanding :

    It is the same Holy Spirit inside us that will cause us to agree with that which is of God
    If this will necessarily happen, how do you explain the confusion in the Protestant world which you described earlier? How would you respond to Jim’s question above concerning the twin Christians who come to different interpretations of Scripture?

    Jim’s question above concerning the twin Christians who come to different interpretations of Scripture? I don’t know what the twin Christians mean. Pls brief me. As for the confusion I need time to check the bible before I come back.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have all the truth nor it is by myself as I have learned the truth from many good teachers. What I do is – I always check the bible to confirm what I have been taught by others. I encourage you to do so and be open for correction. Please correct me if I am wrong. You are better than me. Love.

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    • “My only certainty is an answer found in the bible itself. If I have interpreted wrongly, pls. correct me by giving me an answer from the bible. learn from teachers who are truthful in their hearts and others who have sound doctrine knowledge.”

      David, you are making my point! You value the teachings of other men and use them to help gain a better understanding of what the Bible actually means. We all do that! We somehow can not see that when it comes to interpreting the Bible we do so through the filter of our own understanding that has been shaped by our spiritual heroes.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      > Paul must have taught the gentile churches his jewish traditions i.e. of Christ only. Otherwise I will stick to my own tradition

      I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here. The important point in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is that Paul was communicating the Deposit of Faith both in written form and orally. They both carried the same weight.

      > Are any of the fathers of the church jews?

      Clement of Rome was of Jewish extraction. I’m not sure about the others. We see from Acts that Christianity exploded among the Gentiles and we know from history that they quickly became the majority in the Church. However, does it matter how many of the Fathers were Jewish? After all, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free…”

      > How do we confirm any doctrine? What basis or method to confirm them?

      Apostolic succession, the “rule of faith”, Scripture and liturgy were the standard tests of orthodoxy in the Early Church.

      > Are all the writings of every fathers of the church correct?

      Nope. I would say that this was inevitable since they were at the cutting edge of theology. The Early Fathers are the giants on whose shoulders modern theologians stand. For example, the Fathers were the first people to come up with ways of explaining the mystery of the Godhead (a theological minefield). Another example would be that they were the first to explore the relationship between Christian faith and the reason found in Greek Philosophy.

      > And are they perfect that they cannot make mistakes nor errors in their writings of doctrines?

      Nope. What we look for in the Fathers is uniformity and consistency. For example, every Father, without exception, speaks of the Eucharist as a sacrifice and that Christ is truly present there. This is part of the Apostolic Tradition.

      > Even the jew’s traditions are at fault

      The traditions of men, sure, and Jesus condemned those.

      > What do you think of our present church’s traditions?

      As Jim points out below, there are traditions with a lowercase “t” which can change and traditions with an uppercase “T” which are part of the Deposit of Faith which cannot change.

      An example of an upper-case “T” tradition would be Baptism. Every single Father without exception talks about Baptism actually washing away sin. The Church is not unable to change this.

      A lower-case “t” tradition would be the wearing of white garments after baptism. In theory, that tradition could be discarded (but probably won’t).

      > One cannot be sure unless it is written in our bible which God had gave us

      Sure you can. Also, you end up with the problematic situation in explaining how you identify what constitutes “our Bible”. You need the Church and Tradition to help you answer that.

      > Or are we to doubt that our bible is not sufficient to confirm the accuracy of each doctrine?

      We might talk of the Bible as being “materially sufficient”…

      For example, I could get hold of some canvas and some paint. I would then have material sufficiency to paint the Mona Lisa, having all the necessary ingredients I need. How likely is it that I’m going to be able to produce this masterpiece? After all, I’m no Leonardo Da Vinci! I need more than the raw materials to assemble the masterpiece correctly.

      Please take a moment to look at the results of all the different Protestant groups in their attempt to paint the Mona Lisa (teach right doctrine). They all had the same canvas and paint (the Bible), but the outcome? No two pictures are alike and some of the paintings barely even look even human!

      > Why is it that the apostle Thomas letters or Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians not included in the bible?

      Good question! Although a longer answer could have be given, here’s a short answer…

      When the Church came to canonize the Scriptures they did not start with a blank piece of paper. They began by looking at what was read in the liturgy of the Church on Sunday. Clement’s letter was one of the books read at the Eucharistic celebration (and not only in Corinth). Although it was authentic, orthodox and edifying, the Church discerned that it was not apostolic enough be included in the canon.

      The Gospel of Thomas was never read in the Christian congregations, so it wasn’t even a candidate for inclusion.

      > Did the bible we have today originated or begun from the Canon?

      A canon is simply a list, in this case, the table of contents of your Bible. So no, first you had the various books of the Bible and then the canon list came later. It wouldn’t be possible to write the Table of Contents of the New Testament before any of the books themselves had been written.

      In the Early Church there was no control over the distribution of books. They were simply read, copied and distributed. Over time, canons started to circulate too, where the different congregations shared the lists of books which they read in their churches. Over time, these canons became standardized into the Table of Contents that you have today.

      > I have doubt with the Canon as Emperor Constantine has the power over Council of Niacea in 325 AD and I do not trust them at ALL.

      Contrary to popular belief, the Council of Nicaea had absolutely nothing to do with the canon of Scripture.

      It is also worth pointing out that Constantine called the council, but he didn’t control it. He called together bishops who had previously been dying and persecuted for their faith – they weren’t just about to roll over and change the basis of their religion simply because the Emperor said so.

      Finally, I would question your trust in the Council. After all, do you believe that the Son was a creation of the Father? I think that you would join with the Council of Nicaea in condemning that as heresy.

      > During Paul’s time there were already many false writings on doctrines (Gal 1:6-7)

      I don’t see anything in there about false writings (although I’m sure they started to be produced). However, just because there is such a thing as fake money, it doesn’t mean that true money doesn’t exist. Just because there are false gods, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a true God. Likewise, just because there were false writings, doesn’t mean there weren’t true writings.

      > I ONLY trust the bible

      …but you have to explain how you know what constitutes the Bible, which cannot be done using Sola Scriptura

      > EVEN the bible has been attacked by SATAN – KJV, NIV, etc.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean here.

      > My only certainty is an answer found in the bible itself. If I had interpreted wrongly, pls. correct me by giving me an answer from the bible.

      This is certainly a position of humility. However, the point must be drawn out that this means that when someone proclaims “The Bible says…”, what they are really saying is “I interpret the Bible to mean….and I could be wrong”

      > Even good teachers can make mistake. We ought to know a person if his heart is right by looking at how they live. Are they walking in Love, honesty, righteously or are they deceitful?

      But even good people can make mistakes, no? After all, since every Protestant denomination has a slightly different doctrine, you wouldn’t automatically assume that their leaders are purposefully distorting Scripture, would you?

      >> Why do you think that you will come to the truth when these others haven’t? Do you think that they haven’t studied properly?
      I think they are seeking for answers but still there so many false writings that might have mislead them as it is today. I trust the bible is the only right answer.

      But I was talking about Sola Scriptura Protestants who have exactly the same Bible as you – “false writings” don’t figure in the equation.

      >>That passage (2 Peter 3:15 – 17) says that Scripture can be twisted and misinterpreted, leading to the reader’s destruction. Peter exhorts his readers to beware, lest they are led astray. I wouldn’t translate his message as “Go interpret the Bible for yourself”, that’s exactly what was getting people into the problem in the first place!

      You are right. This is the problem we face. I will only interpret bible from the bible and nothing of my own opinion without backing from the bible

      I’m afraid this doesn’t address Peter’s point. Do you think the hundreds/thousands of other Protestant leaders didn’t “only interpret bible from the bible…[with] nothing of [their] own opinion”? That’s what they tried to do…yet still came up with different doctrine.

      > Jim’s question above concerning the twin Christians who come to different interpretations of Scripture? I don’t know what the twin Christians mean. Pls brief me.

      Here is what Jim wrote: “Let me challenge you here. A brother in the Lord, reads the Bible and through prayer becomes utterly convinced that speaking in tongues is for today and begins to seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit. His twin brother, reading the same Bible and praying to the same Lord, comes to be fully convinced that speaking in tongues was something that ONLY happened in the New Testament era and no longer happens today. Who is right? Certainly they both could be wrong, but they both can’t be right. How do we decide which position accurately reflects the truth of Scripture? This happens all the time on all different kinds of topics. We say “the Lord told me” and that is suppose to settle the argument. How does it settle the argument here?”

      My goodness that was a lot of questions! Time to go get a cup of tea!

      Like

  12. ” It is the same Holy Spirit inside us that will cause us to agree with that which is of God
    If this will necessarily happen, how do you explain the confusion in the Protestant world which you described earlier?”

    Confusion in today’s Church : Let’s look in the bible at what happened during and from Paul’s time.

    God through Paul said that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith as there are seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils penetrating into the church.
    Paul predicted in Acts 20:29 “that after my departing (after his death) shall grievous wolves (false prophets) enter in among you (the churches), not sparing the flock”
    John said even then (now) are there many anti-christs that went out from them (us) in the early church. John said “I have written unto you concerning them that seduce you” in the early church.
    There were already much confusions and doctrines of devils in the Corinthians church when Paul was alive and today there are even more Confusions and more doctrines of devils in today’s churches, especially in the Charismatic.
    Paul told us : (“For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ”). We know that there were already false apostles in the Corinthians church from Paul’s time. Today, there could be more.
    These are clear evident of the early church were seduced in every areas possible that some fall into Satan’s hand. It is even worse in today’s churches without Paul to deliver us. Can you imagine how many churches have already fallen into the deception of false prophets from Paul’s time until today.
    Can you see that deception in the church started from Paul’s time and today it is even worse. That is the reason why today we have to debate on many doctrines to find the truth and know what is false.
    Sad to say that so many Christians would not listen nor wish to find out. Some are taken in a strong delusion and some are just not bothered. Beware of those seducing spirits which are already working in today’s church taking many captives. Apostle John had warned the early church “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”. During John’s time many false prophets have gone out into the world. Are you aware that there are many false prophets today? Please be warned of these things lest we fall into our own destruction. I have learned from my own mistakes and errors as I have seen and gone through these things myself.

    1 Tim 4:1
    – Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

    1 Jn 2:18
    – Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
    2:19
    – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
    2:26
    – These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
    4:1
    – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

    Acts 20:28
    – Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
    20:29
    – For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
    20:30
    – Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
    20:31
    – Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

    2 Cor 11:12
    – But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
    11:13
    – For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
    11:14
    – And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
    11:15
    – Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

    Like

    • Can you imagine how many churches have already fallen into the deception of false prophets from Paul’s time until today?
      Can you see that deception in the church started from Paul’s time and today it is even worse. That is the reason why today we have to debate on many doctrines to find the truth and know what is false.

      Alex, that is a good observation. Clearly, Paul warned the church about this. Restless Pilgrims direct challenge actually deals with the Protestant church and I think it stands until answered. You have shown, and quite well I might add, that God has warned his church about false teachers and doctrines entering the church. What you have not demonstrated is who these false teachers were and where the false doctrines will or did originate from. We use tradition to figure that out.

      Who is to say that the Reformers are not the guilty ones?

      Clearly the Protestant church was birthed in these latter days, for it did not exist at Paul’s time, nor at any time up until the 1500’s. So we fall into the “latter day” or the later times era. How does one therefore know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that the very thing Paul warned us about was not started by Luther or Calvin or the rest of the Reformers?

      Like

  13. ” It is the same Holy Spirit inside us that will cause us to agree with that which is of God”

    We know that babes cannot take solid food (Word of God). Therefore they will not know how to differentiate if a doctrine is of God or not, even though they have the Holy Spirit. That is the same for me, when I was a baby I can’t differentiate even though I have the Holy Spirit in me until I mature. Maturity is a process by living out God’s Word while diligently studying the bible. Check the bible for yourself.

    Do you agree that many are still babies in Christ even after many years. This is why many cannot see what we see and they are under the deception of Satan’s servants or slaves.
    This is the reason why there are so many confusion in today’s churches.

    Like

    • Do you agree that many are still babies in Christ even after many years.

      Yes, I do. However, would you also not agree that those who are responsible for teaching doctrine in our Protestant churches are not babes in Christ? Those who write our theology books and answer the hard questions have been Christians for years. Most, if not all of them have Doctorate degrees in their respective fields. Perhaps the people in the pew are not grounded in the word, but our leaders who write our theology books are.

      This is why many cannot see what we see and they are under the deception of Satan’s servants or slaves.
      This is the reason why there are so many confusion in today’s churches.

      Again, the leaders of the Reformation were not uneducated men.

      Like

  14. There could be other reasons why there are so many confusion in today’s churches.

    Like

  15. Restless Pilgrim

    An interesting perspective from a Lutheran pastor: http://thejaggedword.com/2014/12/10/scripture-alone-is-not-enough/

    Like

  16. Thank you for your answers brother Restless. I appreciate your answers.

    Jim, I agree – anyone who teaches doctrines are not babes in Christ. Those false teachers must be brilliant and educated people. If not who would listen to them.

    Like

  17. Reblogged this on The Rest of the Old, Old Story and commented:
    I had to reblog this. So well said!

    Like

  18. What is a Protestor? Protestants are daughters that have found doctrines and traditions of the Church of Rome are those of men not of the Word of God. So Protestants hold some of the doctrines of the Church of Rome and hold doctrines and traditions of their own men also named in the article. Denomination connotes division. Pre trib rapture is a deception that relies on misapplication of several verses and denying the weight of verses to the contrary. Protestants still hold the doctrine named Trinity that is another invention of men. The author does identify the danger of leaving the narrow path. Many denominations are caving to the secular insistence to accept the LGBT abasement contrary to the Word of God. The Church of Rome abetted fascism during the second world war in conformity to secular government (also a religion), and practiced silent witness to slaughter. Tragically, there is no end to supplanting the Word of God for the doctrines of men.

    Like

  19. Is traditions being shaped by Scripture or is it the other way around? I was raised as a nominal Catholic and read my Bible. My parents did not take to the many traditions held in the Catholic church.

    For me, I am thankful for this and the freedom to come to Christ. As for traditions, I firmly believe they have value; however, they are to be subordinate to Scripture. They can also be of value in considering many traditions; provided they are examined in the Light of God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    I’m actually enjoying the roads; as it’s nice to see another person holding a seemingly balanced view.

    Like

    • Hi Barry,

      I am glad you are enjoying the blog. We have good discussion over here, with varying opinions. Usually, we disagree peacefully and respectfully!

      Like

  20. Jim,

    About a year and a half ago your review of the book “Reconsidering TULIP” challenged me to think outside the box of Protestant theology in seeking answers to my spiritual/biblical conundrums. Ultimately, God used that and other circumstances in my life to lead me all the way into the Catholic Church. Obviously I had many misunderstandings to clear up first, but I was willing to pursue the Truth no matter how uncomfortable. Although I have not been spending much time on the blogosphere, I happened to come across this post of yours and I think it might be a good time for me to return the potentially life-changing favor and recommend a couple books that might help you out.

    “The Protestant’s Dilemma” by Devon Rose

    “Surprised by Truth” by Patrick Madrid

    May God bless you as you continue to pursue a Truth that is “not for itching ears”.

    -Ben

    Like

    • Hi Ben,

      Thanks for coming back and sharing your story. It means a lot to me!

      I understand where you came from and I am most certainly aware of the Protestant dilemma! Often my every free thought is focused on some aspect of it. I dream about it, I lie awake at night pondering it. I think I have become quite educated with the dilemma! I now tell my friends “Don’t ready the early church documents unless you want to turn your world upside down!”

      I have such a respect for the early church fathers. They have become my mentors, my leaders, my pastors in a way.

      At this point, I am a spiritual mutt and I am OK with that, for now!

      I just finished reading the Catechism of St Cyril of Jerusalem. It is one of the oldest Catechism’s in existence today and the Coptic church STILL uses it! In an interesting twist, the Coptic church is much like the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic church, ACCEPT it totally rejects the idea of purgatory, which is a big one for me.

      Thank you for the book suggestions!

      Like

  21. English is not my mother language, so forgive my grammar errors.

    It’s importante to know that the reformers believed that Sola Scriptura was the only INFALLIBLE authotity in the Church, they didn’t rules out Tradition, just put it in the exam of Scriptures…
    Also, they gave a great importance to the Church Fathers and to the Creeds…
    The objective of Reformation was to reform the Church using the only trustworhty dogma present at time, The Holy Scripture, because the Tradition was too corrupt to be trusted at the time.

    Like

    • “Also, they gave a great importance to the Church Fathers and to the Creeds…”

      If you mean by “gave great importance” that they took care to not pay much attention to them, then I agree with you.

      Like

  22. Very well said. Brother Tulio.. The Holy Scripture, because the Tradition was too corrupt to be trusted at the time (beginning from the 4th century as no one can be sure whether those traditions are correct or not). A jewish tradition should be more preferred than any unkown or gentile tradition because our Lord Jesus Christ is a Jew. There are much evident in all the epistles of Paul and the rest of the apostles found in our bible today.

    Like

    • Hi Alex!

      “because the Tradition was too corrupt to be trusted at the time (beginning from the 4th century as no one can be sure whether those traditions are correct or not”

      Let us say for a moment that your above statement accurately reflects the truth: From the 4th century on, the tradition was too corrupt to be trusted. My question to you is then:

      Up until what point in time do you think the oral and written tradition of the Church COULD be trusted?

      Like

  23. Given the following statement…

    “It is becoming apparent to me that no church, no theologian, no follower of Christ actually lives out their faith based on the idea of Sola Scriptura.”

    …..it would seem that the author either claims to know what no one but God could possibly know, or perhaps he just demands perfection in the ‘living out’ of the principle of Sola Scriptura.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can unashamedly admit that is it not the former!

      I think your second option makes my point for me. No one, or at least no one I have ever met, read or dialogued with, bases their understanding of Scripture solely on Scripture.

      We have all received a little help from our friends. I think that is so painfully obvious and it doesn’t bother me one bit, as a person who agrees that the Scriptures are the ultimate authority for faith and practice.

      My theology library is worth well over $5000, and all of those works have helped shape what I believe. They have helped me arrive at the conclusions that I hold.

      That is true for most of us.

      Like

      • My understanding of the principle of Sola Scriptura is that it is just that – a sound and great principle. I agree that it’s a good bet that no person has ever held perfectly to the principle in everything he/she has done/does. I do believe we ought to hold to the principle as well as we can as we live our imperfect lives.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Are the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Views on How One is Saved Actually That Different? | Not For Itching Ears

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