Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Sola Fide in support of Sola Scriptura? I think not...

My friend who styles himself Presbyterian Prince has gone to the trouble to start a blog, in order to have more space than Twitter allows to refute what he sees as my errors. It may be found here.

The trouble is, of course, the more space we have, the more we write and the bigger the debate gets.

That is compounded as I am very busy at work, at present, and travelling a lot, so have little time to blog. So I shall not answer every point in detail (at least, not today).

Rather I shall focus on just a couple of issues.  The first is one of the biggest errors, as I see it, to which he has fallen victim.  He writes:

you have 3 items:  Scripture, Tradition, and Church.  But these 3 cannot be equal authorities.  What if the Church contradicts something taught in Scripture?  I can show you it does.  The Bible undeniably teaches Sola Fide. "whoever believes has eternal life" John 6:47.  Yet Rome teaches that justification is by faith + works.  Both cannot be true.  Someone is wrong.  Is it Scripture or the Church?
Needless to say, I do not accept that Scripture, Tradition and the Church are ever in conflict. To me, that is as absurd as saying that Truth and Love cannot be equal authorities: what if Truth contradict Love? 

He goes on, to offer as proof of such a conflict the claim that 'The Bible undeniably teaches Sola Fide.' That is clearly (to say the very least) a highly debatable proposition. Of course he can quote John 6:47 at me; and indeed other verses that can be interpreted in support of Sola Fide.

But on the other hand, Our Lord teaches that Baptism is necessary to enter the kingdom; that unless we eat His body and drink His blood, we cannot enter the kingdom.  He teaches that on the last day, we will be judged by what we have done. How do these 'works' fit with the idea of Sola Fide? 

St James is even more explicit:  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. This is the only time we find the words 'Faith alone' together in the Bible. Indeed, Luther was moved to call St James' 'an Epistle of straw' because it ran counter to his doctrine of Sola Fide. When the man who invented Sola Scriptura is moved to denounce Scripture for disagreeing with his doctrines, which allegedly put Scripture as the supreme authority, I think we can see that we are in troubled waters...

I do not need, here, to prove that Sola Fide is wrong (though I believe it to be so); merely to prove that the Bible does not clearly teach it. We have to look at these verses (and the rest of the New Testament) and decide what they mean; it is far from self-evident. That very fact undermines Sola Scriptura: we need an interpretive authority, or each man will decide for himself what Scripture means - and that is what we see with the fragmentation of the reformed denominations.

The other really interesting point in PP's argument is this:

The reason why only 27 books made the NT Canon was because the Church recognized that these were the Books that were breathed out by the Holy Spirit. 
Here, it seems to me, he undercuts his whole argument: for he recognises the authority of the Church over Scripture: that it is indeed that Church that has decided what the Canon of Scripture is. The authority of Scripture Alone is not enough for us to know what we are to believe, because it cannot even tell us what books are Scriptural. 

No, we believe in Scripture on the authority of the Church, and we believe in the Church on the authority of Tradition, and Scripture ratifies both Church and Tradition; for each of these rests ultimately on the authority of Christ, who commended them all to us; who founded the apostolic Church to pass on, from generation to generation, whatever He taught, by inspired word and inspired teaching; who established the Sacraments as the works by which his saving work was made ever-present to succeeding generations, and who continues to pour out His Holy Spirit on the Church, as he promised to do, so that the gates of Hell may never prevail against her.

1 comment:

Highland Cathedral said...

Your friend claims that, “The Bible undeniably teaches Sola Fide.” Sola Fide means, ‘by faith alone’. In other words, our eternal salvation has nothing to do with anything that we do here on earth other than saying that we have faith in Christ. Now, suppose that I say to your friend, what about someone who says, “I believe in Christ” or even, “I surrender my life to Christ” and then engages in homosexual behaviour. If it is ‘faith alone’ does the homosexual behaviour have no bearing on his salvation? Your friend might try to wriggle out of this by saying that someone who has truly surrendered his life to Christ wouldn’t engage in homosexual behaviour but that is equivalent to saying that such a person would never again commit a sin.
Now, it so happens that an Evangelical Protestant, Dr Peter Saunders, has recently written on his blog that the issue of homosexuality is ‘primary’ in relation to salvation. It would appear from such a comment that Dr Saunders believes that salvation depends on more than just a declaration that we believe in Christ but that we must also carry out his commands. In other words, our salvation depends not only on what we think but also on what we do.