Chris Matthew responded to the critique presented by Jon the Orthodox. So, I’ll post the previous articles in regards to this discussion:
Here is now his addition to the conversation:
Greetings. Are you Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, …? @Jonathyn. Regardless of your profession, permit me to interact with some of your earlier comments. You allege that you “haven’t been corrected” on the issue of Sola Scriptura so I’ll attempt to press some of your errors. First and foremost, you contend:
[Sola Scriptura is] the idea that the only authoritative and infallible source of rules of faith are found in scripture, in scripture alone… but, sola scriptura is self refuting because the rule of faith “sola scriptura” is not found in scripture.
“[F]rom infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correcting, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, fully equipped for every good work.” ─ 2 Tim. 3:14-17. “Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.'” ─ 1 Cor. 4:6. Leon Morris (in the Tyndale commentary on the text) claims this saying was “a catch-cry familiar to Paul and his readers.” Sounds very much like the cry of the Protestant Reformation, doesn’t it?
This kind of exhortation is found throughout Scripture. Moses was told, ʺYou shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from itʺ (Deut. 4:2). Solomon reaffirmed this in Proverbs, saying, ʺEvery word of God is tested….Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiverʺ (Prov. 30:5‐6). Indeed, John closed the last words of the Bible with the same exhortation. And it follows that, if the content inscripturated in the Bible is our only verifiable means of access to the words of the apostles and prophets, then that alone constitutes authoritative normative revelation for believers today. And let’s have one more, the cherry on top. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” ─ Is. 8:20
We can discuss these verses in greater detail, but this is more than sufficient for a brief overview of Scripture’s own testimony to Sola Scriptura. However, I will mention it could even be argued that Sola Scriptura doesn’t need to be explicitly set forth in Scripture. I quote from R.C. Sproul Jr.,
Sola Scriptura is a biblical doctrine not because the Bible says so. That would be a tautology ─ the kind of argument we find in that collection of lies the Book of Mormon. Instead the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God. It has been attested, authenticated, by God Himself. Miracles serve as the divine imprimatur, the proof that this is a message of God. This is how Nicodemus reasoned when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Secondly, you attempt to make a case for your own position from Scripture:
in fact, St Paul instructs believers to believe in the traditions that were taught by word of mouth or by epistle
Plainly put, 2 Thess. 2:15 is a broken argument against Sola Scriptura. In this verse, Paul points to his own firsthand teaching, and not some free-floating paradosis.
The first point of examination is to note that this is a command…to whom? To Christians in general? Did Paul address 1 Thessalonians to 21st-century Christians? No. Did he speak to us personally? No. Was a modern reader in the audience when he spoke? No. Is Paul enjoining us to adhere to the written and oral traditions which he taught us by his spoken word or earlier letter? No, false on both counts. Is Paul enjoining us to follow a 5C bishop of Thessalonica—or 8C bishop of Constantinople, or 18C bishop of Moscow—who claims to be handing down an oral Pauline tradition? No. Since the text never says that, it can’t very well mean what it never said. Rather, the verse is directed to mid-1C members of the church of Thessalonica. It’s not referring to Christians in general. It’s not referring to apostolic succession. It’s not referring to sub-apostolic oral traditions allegedly of Pauline origin. That’s what it says. That’s all it says. It can’t mean more than it says. No contortions. It couldn’t be more straightforward. Indeed, it has an expected expiration date. Paul is telling people who have face-to-face knowledge of his teaching to hold fast to what they heard from his own mouth. You can’t legitimately extrapolate from that to situations far removed from face-to-face knowledge, as if Paul is vouching for traditions in the indefinite future. Furthermore, keep in mind that this occurs in correspondence where Paul warns about forgeries. That’s why he signs his letters. So even at that stage there’s a concern about spurious apostolic traditions.
The Thessalonians should hold to the oral preaching which they heard directly from the lips of Paul himself. It doesn’t extend to allegedly apostolic tradition from some third-hand source (or worse). To the contrary, this very epistle warns the reader to be wary of spurious apostolic communications (2:2; 3:17). That’s the point of 2 Thess 2:15. It’s the polar opposite of a blanket endorsement of allegedly apostolic traditions. Now, of course, there are commands in Scripture which do apply beyond their immediate audience. But there’s no automatic presumption that any or every divine command is binding on all Christians at all times and places. That, rather, depends on the nature of the command, the wording of the command, and/or the context in which it’s given. You’ve taken a verse of Scripture, stripped it of its historical context, and then arbitrarily reapplied it to your denomination of choice. You have more verses up your sleeve, it looks like. Thirdly,
and other verses, where Paul says that the church is the pillar and ground of truth, not scripture
A fundamental problem at hand is quoting the verse out of context. For all its due merits, the pitfall of chapter-and-verse division is that folks can read a particular verse whilst failing to place that verse in the flow of the argument. They don’t consider what comes before or after. In this case, you’re boldly saying, “See, Paul doesn’t say ‘Scripture’ is a pillar of truth, but ‘the Church’ in 1 Tim. 3:15!”. Yet this completely ignores the preceding verse. Paul is directing Timothy to what he wrote. Look at what I just wrote you!
Moreover, he wrote to Timothy so that Timothy would know how to conduct himself in church, based on Paul’s written instructions. If, however, the church is the source of truth, then that’s superfluous. Yet Paul points Timothy to Paul’s explicit, written directives. That’s the benchmark.
We must not and cannot disregard the preceding verse. We need to back up one verse to get the overall thrust: “14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God…”
Syntactically, verse 14 refers back to the preceding section (2:1-3:13). But the principle extends to the rest of the letter. Since Paul can’t instruct Timothy and the congregation in person, the letter is a stand-in, which serves that purpose. By Paul’s own admission, his letter takes the place of Paul’s face-to-face teaching. Catholic apologists claim we need a “living voice”, an infallible interpreter. Eastern Orthodox claim the necessity of infallible tradition to duly interpret a nominally ‘prime’ Scripture. Yet the very function of an apostolic letter is to instruct the faithful in the apostle’s absence (cf. 2 Cor 13:10).