Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bab 22 Sola Scriptura?

The well-known axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is just as true in religion as in politics. In fact, religious power is even more corrupting than political power. Absolutism reaches its ultimate abusive pinnacle when it claims to act for God. Vatican II requires "loyal submission of the will and intellect" to the Roman Pontiff "even when he does not speak ex cathedra. . . . "3 No Catholic can presume to obey God and His Word directly but must give that absolute obedience to the Church, which acts for God and thus stands between the individual and God.

The corruption of power reaches its greatest height in Catholicism's bold claim that its members cannot understand the Bible for themselves but must accept unquestioningly the Church's interpretation: "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God ... has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone."4 With that edict, God's Word, the one repository of truth and liberty which is capable of destroying despotism, is kept under Church control and shrouded in mystery. This leaves devout Catholics at the mercy of their clergy, a clergy which, as we have seen, is all too readily corrupted.

Blind Acceptance

To escape that destructive enslavement, the Reformers urged submission to God's pure Word as the ultimate authority rather than to the Church or the pope.

The basic issue that sparked the Reformation (and which remains the basic issue today) was whether to continue in blind submission to Rome's dogmas, even though they contradicted the Bible, or to submit to God's Word alone as the final authority. Menno Simons's biographer relates the conflict he faced:

The real problem came when Menno, having dared to open the lids of the Bible, discovered that it contained nothing of the traditional teaching of the Church on the Mass. By that discovery his inner conflict was brought to a climax, for he now was compelled to decide which of two authorities was to be supreme in his life, the Church or the Holy Scriptures.5

The Reformers made that choice in favor of Scripture and their central cry became Sola Scriptura! That liberating truth was rejected at the Council of Trent by bishops who were unwilling to surrender control of the people under them. It was even considered to be harmful for the people to possess the Bible in their own tongue because they might take it literally, which Rome argues even today must not be done. From her viewpoint only a specially trained elite can understand the Bible:

The interpreter must.... go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries ... with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use.6

Trent's view that the authority for the Catholic is the Church, not the Bible, remains in force today. Only Scripture scholars trained at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome with "a degree in theology [and] mastery of six or seven languages (including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek ... )" are capable of understanding the Bible. Having earned "a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture ... the Catholic Church's license to teach Scripture,"7 they alone can teach the Bible. No layman is qualified. Vatican II insists:

It is for the bishops, with whom the apostolic doctrine resides, suitably to instruct the faithful entrusted to them in the correct use of…the New Testament…by giving them translations of the sacred texts which are equipped with necessary and really adequate explanations.8

What the Bible Says

The Bible was given by God to all mankind, not to an elite group to explain it to others. It is to be a lamp on the path (Psalm 119:105) of all who heed it. Moses proclaimed that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3)-and not a whisper about that word being interpreted by an elite hierarchy. Psalm I speaks of the blessed man who meditates upon God's Word (variously called the law, statutes, judgments, commandments, etc.) day and night. "Man" surely includes woman, but cannot possibly be interpreted to mean only a special class of highly educated experts.

We get the impression from reading Paul's epistles that those to whom they were written were expected to understand them. The epistles are not addressed to a bishop or select group of leaders but to all of the Christians at Corinth, Ephesus, etc. Each Christian is given an understanding by the indwelling Holy Spirit of the words which the same Spirit inspired "holy men of God" to write (2 Peter 1:21).

Even a "young man" is expected to "heed" God's Word (Psalm 119:9). Again, not a hint is given that it must be explained to him by a rabbi. Christ, quoting Moses, affirmed that man is to feed upon the Bible for his very life (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Job considered God's Word "more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). Never a word about consulting a hierarchy for its meaning!

Trusting the Church Instead of the Bible

The pope, in his August 15, 1993, "address to representatives of the Vietnamese community" at Denver, told them: "The challenge before you is to keep pure and lively your Catholic identity. . . ."9 One seldom if ever hears Catholic leaders exhorting the flock to be true simply to Christ or to God's Word, but always to the Church. Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II's 1993 treatise on morals, refers to the truth taught by Christ and mediated by the Church. Without that mediation the Catholic cannot know God's truth simply by reading God's Word. Only by such a doctrine can Rome keep its adherents blindly following its corrupt and unbiblical teachings.

Cardinal Ratzinger, watchdog of orthodoxy, exemplifies this blind faith in Catholicism. He tells of a theology professor who admitted that the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, declared a Roman Catholic dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, could not be supported by Scripture, yet decided to believe it because "the Church is wiser than I." Sadly, he is actually acknowledging the Church to be wiser than the Bible and thus capable of contradicting it!

Ratzinger has that same unwarranted total trust in Catholicism and pledges "to follow the Catholic faith and not my own opinions."10 Thus he guards the "faith" not by making certain that what is taught in Catholic seminaries, universities, and pulpits around the world agrees with the Word of God, but that it conforms to Catholic tradition taught by popes, councils, and church fathers-and much of it in false decretals. Vatican II says that "both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence."11 The new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church recently released by the Vatican states:

The Church to which is confided the transmission and the rendering of the Revelation does not draw solely from the Holy Scriptures her certainty on all points of Revelation [but also from Tradition and the magisterium]. . . .12

The Church Stands in the Way of Truth

Christ declared, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth [no hint of another source of truth]" (John 8:31,32). He did not make that statement to the 12 apostles, but to common people who had just "believed on him" (verse 30). He said nothing of His truth having to be interpreted by the rabbis, and of course the Roman Catholic hierarchy didn't even exist then. God's Word was available to and was to be understood, believed, and obeyed by even the newest converts. That was what Christ expected of His followers then and it is what He expects of us today as well.

Rome blocks the individual's access to the truth. The Catholic can't learn directly from Christ's words, but only from the interpretation thereof by the Church. Christ said, "Come unto me ... I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Rome allows no one to come directly to Christ, but has set itself up as the intermediary channel of God's grace necessary for knowing God's truth and for salvation. On this point Rome is adamant. Otherwise she would lose her hold on the people, who could then do without her.

Would God inspire infallible Scripture and then deny to all except an elite few the ability to understand it, requiring billions of people to surrender their minds to a hierarchy by blindly accepting their interpretation of His Word? If the Holy Spirit can convince the world "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8), then surely He can teach all those in whom He dwells. John says that the Christians to whom he writes don't have to look to some special class of men for teaching but have an "anointing [of the Holy Spirit which] teacheth you of all things" (1 John 2:27).

If all Christians are "led by the Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14), then surely all must be able to understand the Scriptures which the Spirit of God has inspired. Christians "have received ... the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). There is no hint that a group of clergy must interpret the Scriptures for everyone else. And why should they? All Christians "have the mind of Christ" (verse 16). Rome dare not acknowledge this truth, for then those under her would be set free.

Rome is still searching for truth outside God's Word. Consider Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). Pope John Paul II is a graduate. Its 1200 students from 135 countries have made "the search for truth" through the thousands of volumes on theology and philosophy in its library and elsewhere their "life-objective."13 Contrast Christ's statement, that by obeying His Word one knows the truth, with the complexity of the "search for truth" by Catholic scholars. Both can't be right.

A Deadly Spiritual Bondage

Ordinary Bereans checked Paul's teachings not with a hierarchy in Rome, which didn't even exist, but against the Bible (Acts 17:11). That practice was commended then and it is still each individual's responsibility to know God's Word and to test every spiritual leader by it, no matter who he may be. This is what the Bible declares.

Roman Catholics, however (like Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and members of various cults), must accept, not check, their Church's teachings. The very Book that would bring life, light, and freedom to individuals and nations is spiritually chained out of reach even as it was once literally chained. Of course, such withholding of God's Word from the laity is consistent with Catholicism's persistent suppression of the basic human freedoms of conscience, religion, and the press.

Among the crimes for which believers were committed to the flames in the Spanish Inquisition was the distribution and reading of the Bible. Smuggling Bibles into Communist or Muslim countries such as China or Iran is understandable, but imagine having to smuggle Bibles into a "Christian" country such as Spain, and being put to death for doing so! Yet in an Auto de Fe in Seville on December 22, 1560, Julian Hernandez, one of those burned at the stake on that occasion, was declared to be an arch-heretic because

through his great efforts and incomprehensible stealth he introduced into Spain prohibited books [Bibles and New Testaments] that he brought from far away places [Germany] where they give protection to the ungodly [Protestants].... He firmly believes that God, by means of the Scriptures, communicates to the laity just the same as He communicates to the priest.14

To believe that God could communicate His truth through the Bible not only to the clergy but to ordinary believers was a crime punishable by death! Rome has not changed. though the Bible is no longer banned overtly as in the past. To do so today would be the wrong tactic and likely create the opposite reaction to the one desired. There is a better way: Let the people have the Bible in their hands, and even encourage them to read it, but keep it from their hearts by insisting that only the Church can interpret it.

At the same time, confidence in Scripture is undermined by Rome's teaching that the Bible is not trustworthy in its pronouncements on history or science. Catholicism takes a symbolic meaning from the book of Jonah concerning "the universality of salvation" and denies that a literal prophet named Jonah was swallowed by a literal fish.15 The early chapters of Genesis are likewise viewed as symbolic rather than accounts of actual creation of the world and man, leaving the door open to evolution. Even the rapture is seen as symbolic and not referring to a literal catching up of Christians to heaven, an idea which Catholics consider to be a delusion.16 The 1964 Instruction of the Biblical Commission declared that the literalist view of the Bible adopted by Fundamentalists "actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide."17

Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?

It is claimed that only the Church can interpret the Bible because it was the Church which gave it to us. That is like saying that because Paul wrote his epistles we need him to interpret them. Furthermore, the Church did not give us the Bible-certainly not the Old Testament, for there was no Church in those days. And if the Roman Catholic Church was not needed to give us the Old Testament, then clearly it was not needed to give us the New either.

A favorite question of Catholic apologists is, "How do you know that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke or that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew?" They claim that Roman Catholic tradition contains this information. Yet no tradition proves who wrote Hebrews, Job, Esther, or various Psalms. Nor does it matter. That the authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit is what counts. This inspiration bears witness within readers who are themselves indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of Scripture.

Catholicism's claim that the New Testament comes from the Church by decision of the councils is false. No early council even ruled on what was canonical; yet in these councils, to support their arguments, both sides quoted the New Testament, which had obviously been accepted by general consensus without any conciliar definition of the canon. The Synod of Antioch, in A.D. 266, denounced the doctrine of Paul of Samosata as "foreign to the ecclesiastical canon." The Council of Nicea in 325 refers to "the canon"; and the Council of Laodicea in 363 exhorted that "only the `canonized' books of both Old and New Testaments be read in the church." Yet none of those councils deemed it necessary to list the canonized books, indicating that they were already well-known and accepted by the common consent of Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Not until the Third Council of Carthage, in A.D. 397, do we have the first conciliar decision on the canon.18 That is rather late if without it Christians didn't know what books were in the New Testament and therefore couldn't use them, as Rome claims today! History proves that the books of the New Testament were known and accepted by Christians and in wide circulation and use at least 300 years before Carthage listed them. Historian W.H.C. Frend writes:

The Gospels and epistles were circulating in Asia, Syria, and Alexandria (less certainly in Rome), and being read and discussed in the Christian synagogues there by about 100. In Polycarp's short letter there is an astonishing amount of direct and indirect quotation from the New Testament: Matthew, Luke, and John, Acts, the letters to the Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Romans, the Pastorals, 1 Peter particularly, and 1 and 2 John are all used....

The Christian Scriptures were quoted so familiarly as to suggest that they had been in regular use a long time.19

No rabbinical body decided upon the canon of the Old Testament. That canon was recognized by Israel and available as it was being written. Daniel, a captive in Babylon, had a copy of Jeremiah written only a few years earlier and was studying it as Scripture (Daniel 9:2). We are certain that the entire Old Testament was well-known when Christ was here and undoubtedly long before, for every Israelite was required to meditate upon it day and night.

God's Word Speaks Directly to All

In Old Testament times the common people were expected to know God's Word, not through rabbinical interpretation but for themselves, and were able to know it. That fact, as well as its availability to all, is very clear from Christ's rebuke of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: "0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken...." (Luke 24:25). He would not have used such harsh language in holding these two ordinary people responsible for their ignorance of prophecies had not all of the Old Testament Scriptures been readily available,

familiar, and understandable to the ordinary Jew. He then expounded unto them in all the Scriptures (which must therefore have been known) "the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27). All of the Scriptures were even available to the faraway Bereans north of Greece, who, as we have seen, "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11).

The same evidence is found in the fact that Timothy knew the Old Testament from early childhood (2 Timothy 3:15) and that it was taught to him not by the rabbis in the synagogue but at home by his mother and grandmother, who themselves were women of faith (2 Timothy 1:5). It is certainly clear that no one in Old Testament times looked to any hierarchy for an official interpretation of Scripture. Nor did the early church. Nor should we today.

The plain words of the Bible, without Rome's domineering interpretation, give the lie to the hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church and the authoritarianism of its clergy. Priscilla and Aquila were an ordinary husband and wife who labored daily at tentmaking (Acts 18:3). Yet a "church [met] in their house" (1 Corinthians 16:19) and they were capable teachers of God's Word, even instructing a man so eloquent as Apollos (Acts 18:26). Paul referred to them as "my helpers in Christ Jesus" (Romans 16:3). They had never been to seminary and were not part of a clerical hierarchy (which didn't exist), but they knew God and His Word by the Holy Spirit indwelling them. So should all Christians today.

According to Paul, ordinary Christians are to judge whether a preacher is speaking God's truth. Paul submitted his writings to the same criteria, inviting his readers to judge by the Holy Spirit within them whether his epistles were from God or not: "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37). It was by the same witness of the Holy Spirit within each individual believer that the first-century church decided which books were canonical. In exactly the same way Christians today recognize the Bible as God's inspired Word.

The Sad Consequences

Unfortunately, the average Catholic has been taught to look to the Church hierarchy for the instruction which the Holy Spirit desires to give directly to believers. To Rome, to suggest that the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals through the words of the Bible is anathema. Karl Keating, one of the leading Catholic lay apologists, writes:

The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him so-that is putting it bluntly-and that same church has the authority to interpret the inspired text. Fundamentalists have no interpreting authority other than themselves.20

In fact, "Fundamentalists" look to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Catholicism also claims that guidance, but only for its hierarchy, who alone can be led of the Spirit to understand the Bible. Yet the Bible says every Christian is indwelt, empowered, and led of the Holy Spirit. In fact, one is not even a Christian without this inner witness and leading of the Holy Spirit:

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.... For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.... The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God ... (Romans 8:9,14,16).

But God hath revealed them [the “things of God”] unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.... the things of God knoweth no man but [by] the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth (I Corinthians 2:10-13).

Having been convinced that he cannot understand the Bible for himself, the devout Catholic is at the mercy of his Church and must believe whatever it teaches. The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine bluntly declares:

Man can obtain a knowledge of God's Word [only from the Catholic Church and through its duly constituted channels.

When he has once mastered this principle of divine authority [residing in the Church], the inquirer is prepared to accept whatever the divine Church teaches of faith, morals and the means of grace.21

Here again, brazenly stated, is the first principle of every cult: "Check your mind at the door and believe whatever the group or church or guru or prophet in charge says." The idea appeals to those who think that by thus surrendering their minds to an infallible authority they escape their individual moral responsibility to God. Others are afraid to think for themselves because that would put them outside the Church, where "there is no salvation."22 By this means God's Word, which should speak powerfully to each individual, is held just out of reach of individual Catholics by their Church.

When Was the New Testament Canon Established?

That the New Testament canon, exactly like the Old, was _accepted and recognized by a consensus of the believers as it was being written is clear from the historic evidence we have given above. Further proof comes from the testimony of Peter:

Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you, 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 [twist], as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15,16).

Peter acknowledges Paul's writings to be Scripture. So has, apparently, the entire body of believers at this time. "The other Scriptures" by that time would have included most of the remainder of the New Testament. Furthermore, these books were so readily available and well-known by common consensus already at this early date (about A.D. 66) that Peter didn't even need to name them. Christians knew what writings were inspired of God in the same way a native in the jungle knows that the gospel is true: by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.

Tragically, Catholicism not only teaches that the Church hierarchy alone can interpret the Bible, but that no one can believe it without the Church attesting to its authenticity. Keating suggests that the gospel itself has no power without this endorsement. He quotes St. Augustine: "I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."23 If that is true, then no one prior to the Third Council of Carthage in A.D. 397 could have believed or preached the gospel!

Yet the gospel was preached from the very beginning. Paul turned the world upside down with the gospel (Acts 17:6). Within the first two centuries about 10 percent of the Roman Empire became Christians and studied, meditated upon, believed, and were led by both the Old and New Testament Scriptures exactly as we have them today. If they could know what books were inspired and could be guided by them without the authenticating stamp of the Roman Catholic Church (which didn't yet exist), then so can we today.

The absurdity and destructiveness of the view that God's Word must have Rome's endorsement is immediately apparent. It is a blasphemous denial that the gospel in itself has power to save or that the Holy Spirit can use the Bible to speak directly to hearers' hearts. Under this view, one must twist prove that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true Church, that it is infallible, that it says the Bible is true, and that therefore the Bible and the gospel must be believed; only then can the gospel be preached. How absurd! Yet to a Catholic this view makes perfect sense because the Church is the vehicle of salvation. One's eternal destiny depends not upon one's relationship to Christ, who is revealed in His Word, but upon one's relationship to that Church and participation in its sacraments.

This theory, of course, is refuted by the Bible itself. Christ and His disciples preached the gospel before any church was established. Early in His ministry, before even saying anything about establishing His church, Christ sent His disciples forth, "and they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel" (Luke 9:6). Eleven times in the four Gospels we are told that Christ and His disciples were engaged in preaching the gospel, a gospel which is "the power of God unto salvation" to those who believe it (Romans 1:16). Yet there was no Roman Catholic Church in existence to verify that the gospel was true. Nor does today's preaching need Rome's endorsement any more than it did in the beginning.

Three thousand souls were saved on the day of Pentecost without Peter saying one word about an infallible Church putting its approval on what he preached. Even after Pentecost we find no attempt by Christians, who "went everywhere preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4), to prove that an infallible Church existed and endorsed the gospel. We read of the preaching of Philip in Samaria and of Paul in many places, where multitudes believed; yet not once is the gospel supported by the statement that Christ established an infallible Church and that the bishops of this Church had put their official stamp of approval upon what was being preached. If the endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church wasn't needed then, neither is it needed now, for the Word of God is "living and powerful ... a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The Sufficiency of Scripture

"Show us one verse in the Bible that clearly declares Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is sufficient in itself," is the specious challenge thrown out by Catholic apologists. One might as well demand "just one verse that states that God is a triune being of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." No single verse says so, yet the doctrine of the trinity is accepted by both Catholics and Protestants as biblical. Nor is there a single verse which contains the words "the Bible is sufficient." However, when we put together the many verses in the Bible on this topic it is clear that the Bible teaches its own sufficiency both to authenticate itself to the reader and to lead to spiritual maturity and effectiveness all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and read it with open hearts.

Paul declared that Scripture was given for "doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" and that the Bible itself makes the man or woman of God "perfect [i.e., mature, complete, all that God intended], thoroughly furnished [equipped] unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). In other words, the Bible contains all the doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness that is needed for those who heed it to become complete in Christ.

Catholic apologists quote nineteeth-century Cardinal John Henry Newman to the effect that if this passage proves the above, then it "proves too much," that "the Old Testament alone would be sufficient as a rule of faith, the New Testament unnecessary" because all Timothy had was the Old Testament.24 The argument is fallacious for several reasons.

First of all, Timothy had more than the Old Testament. This is Paul's second epistle to him, so he has at least two epistles from Paul in addition to the Old Testament. Paul goes on to say that he is about to be martyred (2 Timothy 4:6-8), making this the last epistle Paul wrote. So Timothy, obviously, has all of Paul's epistles. The date is probably around A.D. 66, so he also has the first three Gospels and most of the rest of the New Testament.

Furthermore, when Paul says "all Scripture" it is clear that he means the entire Bible, not merely that which had been written up to that time. Similar expressions are often used in Scripture, but they never mean only the Bible written to that time. When Jesus said, "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48), He didn't mean only what he had spoken to that time. Likewise, when he said, "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17) He obviously meant all of God's Word, though all had not yet been written.

When the writer of Hebrews said, "The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword," he didn't mean only that part of the Word of God that had been written to that time. Nor did Paul by "all Scripture" mean only that which had been written to that time. He clearly meant all Scripture. So Cardinal Newman was wrong, and naively so. Yet Catholic apologists confidently quote his folly to disprove the sufficiency of Scripture.

"That the man of God may be perfect" simply means that the Word of God is all one needs to be "perfect" in the sense of being mature and all that God wants a Christian to be. Catholic apologists refer to other verses where the word "perfect" is used, such as: "If you would be perfect, sell all you have and give to the poor," or "Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire," etc. They then contend that if it can be argued from 2 Timothy 3:17 that the Bible is sufficient to perfect believers, then selling everything one has and giving it to the poor or being patient is also sufficient to make one perfect.

Again the argument fails. Suppose an athletic trainer offers a perfect diet with all the nutritional elements one needs to produce a perfect body. This doesn't mean that other things, such as exercise, aren't necessary. Paul is saying that the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness contained in Scripture is sufficient teaching for the man (or woman) of God to be all God desires. This does not mean that one doesn't have to exercise patience, faith, obedience, charity, etc., which themselves are taught by Scripture. It does mean that in the area of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness the Bible needs no supplementation from tradition or any other source.

Moreover, Paul goes on to say that the man (or woman) of God is, by the Scriptures themselves, "thoroughly prepared unto every good work." The Bible never makes such a statement about patience or love or charity or tradition or anything else. Paul is clearly teaching Sola Scriptura. This doctrine was not invented by the Reformers; they derived it from Scripture.

The Central Issue – A Clear Choice

When Thomas Howard, brother of Elizabeth Elliot (wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot), became a Catholic, Gordon College removed him from its faculty. Among the reasons given was the fact that the statement of faith which all faculty had to sign affirmed the Bible as "the only infallible guide in faith and practice"-impossible for a Catholic to sign. Howard acknowledged that "the sole authority of Scripture is a principle unique to Protestantism, and that he, as a Catholic, could not subscribe to it."25 Sola Scriptura remains the central issue at the heart of the Reformation. One must choose between submitting to the authority of the Bible or to that of the Roman Catholic Church. One cannot do both because of the clear conflict between the two.

The choice one must make is obvious. Blind submission to any earthly hierarchy in itself contradicts the Bible. Moreover, we have given more than sufficient evidence from history to show that the Roman Catholic Church, from the pope down, has forfeited any claim it may ever have had to be trusted.

The most tragic consequence of the blind faith in their Church as the sole interpreter of God's Word for mankind is that hundreds of millions of Catholics consequently trust it for their eternal destiny. The question of salvation, therefore, is also a key issue necessarily separating Catholics and evangelicals.

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