When a person, any person is pushing Sola Scriptura, what they are really pushing is their personal interpretation. That’s why those who maintain Sola Scriptura have morphed into 40,000 plus divisions that are incompatible to the teaching of Scripture. Consider John 17:20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”
From time to time Catholics are frequently challenged by those using the bible against them, which is always interesting to me because the bible itself is a Catholic book. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ to proclaim His Gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
The following I wrote in response to what are called “The Five Solas”:
The Five Solas are:
1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
2. Sola Fide (faith alone)
3. Sola Gratia (grace alone)
4. Sola Christus (Christ alone)
5. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)
All of the above were the rallying cry of Protestantism during the time of the Reformation.
Since then they have mutated and adapted to different varying forms of Protestantism, but this is the basic tenant of what these “Five Solas” are founded. Let’s take a look at these Solas one at a time.
Sola Scriptura is the baseline belief that the bible is the only authority and inspiration of God’s word. No doctrines are accepted without the Bible’s definition or foundation. From the Catholic response to this, all doctrines are either explicitly or implicitly found in the bible. But it is deeper than that.
The Protestants were rejecting the Catholic authority directly opposing the Papacy, redefining the Sacraments even calling them “ordinances” thus denying their relevance. When looking at the history of God’s people, Sola Scriptura did not exist either in the Old Testament nor the Apostolic Tradition.
The Old Testament and the Jewish history verify the Catholic position perfectly, namely; Scripture has always required an interpreter. From Moses to Pope Francis, God’s people have always held an office of “teacher”. That is what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is, the office of “Teacher”.
The Jewish oral law is very similar to Catholic development of dogma and historical growth. The Jewish oral teaching was stored in the “Mishnah“ that became the baseline for the “Halakhuh“ (legal teaching). This was practical due to the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds:
“The Talmud (התלמוד) is considered an authoritative record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish laws, ethics, customs, legends and stories. It expands on the earlier writings in the Torah and Mishnah, and is the basis for all later codes of Jewish law). The Talmud is a combination of a core text, the Mishnah and a later commentary, called the gemara (“completion”). There is only one Mishnah, but there are two distinct gemaras, the Yerushalmi and the Bavli. Both gemaras were developed by many rabbis over a few centuries.”
The “Halakhuh” for the Jewish tradition is comparable to the Canon Laws for Catholic Authority and tradition. So the Old Testament analogy is closely in line with Catholic traditions and foundations. The Catholic Church is based from Scripture. Consider how the Old Testament books were processed in time.
The Torah was written by Moses, prior to Moses, the Genesis story was maintained through oral tradition. The “Pentateuch”, the “Torah” are the first five books of Jewish and Christian scriptures, these books were gathered 500 years after King David. During this time, God moved through the authority of Moses, the Priesthood of Levi, the judges, the prophets, and the Kings. In comparison, the Catholic Faith was founded by Christ, His Apostles, the Priesthood of Christ.
It took nearly 370 years before the Catholic Church finalized the New Testament Canon of Scripture (393-396 Council of Hippo). Tradition played a major role in handing down truth through all generations. St. Paul states (2 Thessalonians 2:15), “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter”.
St. Paul also wrote St. Timothy (2 Timothy 1:13-14), “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”.
This primarily had to be carried out orally as it would take the Church nearly 400 years to comprise the New Testament. The Holy Spirit was imparted to the Catholic Church on Pentecost, which by the Time St. Paul wrote this letter, would have been about 40 years. Taking a look at Jewish Tradition, Christ and His Apostles recognized the Jewish oral tradition raising some of it literally to the level of written revelation. Here are some examples:
Matthew 2:23 says, “and he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene”. This prophecy was passed down orally rather than from scripture. It is not in the Old Testament.
Matthew 23:2-3 says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice”. The Seat of Moses is not found in the Old Testament, but it is found in the “Mishna“. This is clearly the teaching succession from Moses on down. Christians today have “Apostolic Succession” which is the legitimate authority of Christ passed down through the Catholic Church.
1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “…and all drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ”. The movement of the “Rock” is not found in the Old Testament, it is through Jewish tradition that St. Paul was speaking from making his point.
1 Peter 3:19 says, “…in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison”. St. Peter is describing Christ’s journey to “Sheol” (prison) is not in the Old Testament writing, it is taken from the Jewish apocalyptic book 1 Enoch (12-16).
Jude 9 says, “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgement upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you”. The issue of the body of Moses is not found in the Old Testament.
Jude 14-15 says, “It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, ‘behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgement on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him”. This is not in the Old Testament, but refers to 1 Enoch 1:9.
There are more, but I wanted to show that the new Testament writings literally placed into writing Old Testament traditions not found in the (OT) Scriptures. These were placed to the order of divine scripture.
Sola Scriptura cannot and did not have a place in any of God’s teaching authority. The Jewish authority was centered from Moses, “the law giver Levitical Priesthood” carried down the “ordinances” of the Lord which were a “type” of the New Testament authority.”, David, the household of David’s kingship and Elijah, the prophets.
Jesus fulfills Moses, David, and Elijah as He is the Priest, Prophet, and King. The Priesthood of Christ carries the Sacraments of grace centered in a new Covenant.
One last case against Sola Scriptura, coming from the biblical text itself:
2 Peter 1:18-20 says, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”.
2 Peter 3:14-17 says, “Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without blemish, and at peace. And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this, as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability”. This is exactly what “lawless men did in creating these “Five Solas“.
Martin Luther, the founder and “Father” of Protestantism, refereed to Sola Fide as the doctrine that the Church stood or fell. Since he placed such importance on this and contemporary Protestants continue Sola Fide’s belief system, let’s take a look at it.
Protestants declare we are ‘being declared right by God”, and they assume this means salvation. Faith is the means by which we are justified by God. Martin Luther once said “sin valiantly, but believe more valiantly”, this is not exactly what the scriptures or the tradition of the Church.
Galations 5:21 St. Paul warns, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things (sin) shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. St. Paul exposes Luther’s example above as what “lawless men” have processed in the doctrine of Sola Fide. Taking a look at the scripture, what does it say referring to “faith alone”?
Martin Luther referred to the book of James in the New Testament as a “gospel of straw”, that James had “no backbone” because it differed from Luther’s “Sola Fide” doctrine. James wrote, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”.
Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus clearly states, “out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels… As often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me. These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life”.
As important as faith is, Jesus doesn’t speak to that issue, He is speaking of works that He fully expects His people to conduct. The Lord hears the cry of the poor, we become His hands when we seek to do His will! The real issue is the Protestants rejection of the Sacraments and the work that God does through them. The Sacraments could not be “life saving” or “necessary” because they would be the products of “works”!
Philippians 2:16 states, “As I look to the day of Christ, you give me cause to boast that I did not run the race in vain or work to no purpose. Even if my life is to be poured out as a libation, over the sacrificial service of your faith. I am glad of it and rejoice with you”.
St. Paul also says (Philippians 2:12), “So then, my dearly beloved, obedient as always to my urgings, work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation…”
I’ve made this point before, if you are studying for a test and the teacher during review stomps his foot or pounds his hands on the desk to insure you get the point, what should you do? You should take note of the essential information! Well, what does God tell us about Judgement? Our finals, the test we should all want to pass!
Jesus states, “But he who ACTS in the truth comes into the light, to make clear that his DEEDS are done in God (John 3:21)”. Romans 2:5 states, “In spite of this, your hard and impenitent heart is storing up retribution for that day of wrath when the just judgement of God will be revealed, when He will repay every man for what he has DONE…”
1 Peter 1:17 says, “In prayer you call upon the Father who judges each one justly on the basis of his ACTIONS. Since this is so, conduct yourselves, reverently during this sojourn in a strange land”. Hebrews 13:21 states, “Furnish you with all that is good, THAT YOU MAY DO HIS WILL. Though Jesus Christ may carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him. To Christ be the glory forever! Amen.”
Revelation 22:12 states, “Remember, I am coming soon! I bring with me the reward that will be given to each man as his CONDUCT DESERVES.” John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever DISOBEYS the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him (Romans 5:9)”. Scripture after scripture tells us we will be held accountable to our deeds. We must do the will of the Father! If you KEEP His Commandments, you SHOW you love Him! The Catholic Church recognize that we must be obedient in faith. The skull has what we call “infused joints” that keeps our brain protected and intact. We need each part for it to function properly. Likewise, faith and good works are infused, both are essential. Jesus tells us to “store up heavenly treasure that no one can steal”.
Our faith must produce fruit! Don’t take your faith and bury it in the backyard (Matthew 25:24-28). Faith is a gift! Good works are the product of our response to that gift. Salvation is not earned so that we can punch our own ticket, but good works that pleases God and are God ordained makes that ticket complete. “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few”!
The Protestants development of this new gospel says that grace is always ‘efficacious” without the cooperation of man. That salvation comes by God’s grace alone. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God–not because of works, lest any man should boast”.
Grace is a free gift of God not merited by man. The Catholic Church maintains that a person must “cooperate” and accept the free gift from God. Grace and faith must be nurtured, fed or it will die. To live in sin is to live in bondage. That is in essence, throwing God’s gift right back at him. We should never place our selves in that position, but the Lord is forgiving and merciful. That to is grace from God!
Continuing with Ephesians 2, when you get to verse 10, it says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. Again, we must “cooperate” and accept this free gift and nurture it with love, with devotion, with the Sacraments which God imputes grace, He showers His grace upon us. The Protestants use their theology of Sola gratia as a way to show the Sacraments are not necessary.
Catholic and Protestants can agree who Jesus is, but there is major disagreement over Christ’s teaching and authority. The basic question is: “Is the Catholic Church the one true Faith founded by Christ, commissioned by Christ and sent by Christ to go to all the nations with the true Gospel or are the Protestants correct in rebelling against it? It all boils down to that!
Through Christ establishing the Catholic Faith, all the systems of the Faith, the Sacraments, the liturgies, the Scriptures, the traditions, are governed by an authority Christ gives the Church. Protestants will challenge you why you need to go to a priest when you can go to Christ “alone”.
They fail to realize that it is in obedience to Christ that we go to “Confession”or “The anointing of the Sick”! Christ established the Papacy giving us a visible head, a chief steward in holding fast to the “Deposit of Faith” entrusted by Our Lord to His Apostles.
This includes Mother Mary and the Saints as well. Jesus is the mediator between God and man and it is through this mediation that the Saints in heaven can pray for us here on earth. Mary is not competing with Jesus, she is leading people to Him! The Saints are not declared ‘god’s’, they are given for us as role models, the Catholic ‘Hall of Fame” as their lives point the way to Jesus.
Tom T. Hall, a Country singer, use to sing, “Me and Jesus have our own thing going, me and Jesus, got it all worked out”. That is not the Church of the New Testament.
Soli Deo Gloria
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, But as it is written, ‘what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man concieved, what God has prepared for those who love him”. Rich Mullins, in his journey to the Catholic Faith recognized that his Protestant foundations were beginning to crack when he discovered that the Catholic Church did not overrate the Saints. He recognized that his upbringing did underrate the Saints and this was a revelation to him. Jesus is the king of Kings and Lord of Lords and there is none besides him. Yet, he offers us a crown of immortality forever with him in His Father’s house. When we honor Mary, the Saint’s we are really honoring God!
In closing, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses marked with the sign of faith who are praying for us, pulling for us, loving us as they intercede for us. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.