Jesus once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  This is a point that should be considered by all followers of Christ to this day.  It is especially applicable to the century old debate concerning the appropriate basis for faith, and whether it be Sola Scriptura, as a Protestant would claim, or Scripture and Tradition, as would be the position of a Catholic.  Let one point be made exceedingly clear (as it is often ignored or denied by both sides of this argument): Protestants and Catholics alike each seek out the Lord with their whole hearts.  It is the intention of neither to deceive or to trick the other.  Any statements concerning this are always made out of love (excluding those few individuals whom are more concerned with being right then presenting truth or helping anybody and in reality represent neither side).  If a Protestant tells a Catholic that his beliefs are wrong, the intention is not to degrade the Catholic, but to help him come closet to the truth of the Lord.  Likewise, when a Catholic preaches her beliefs, her intention is the same.  That being said, it cannot be denied that one of these two positions is incorrect.  Either Scripture alone should be the basis of our faith or it should not be.  Which of these positions is true?  It is here that our Lord’s words should be considered, as Sola Scriptura proves to be a position standing hopelessly against itself.

            To see how Sola Scriptura is self-defeating, it is important to understand the entire belief of the position.  Sola Scriptura is a Latin phrase, which translates as “Scripture Alone.”  It’s beginnings were in the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, when it was touted by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli (there were several smaller movements concerning Sola Scriptura before the reformation, however none of these were of any consequence and are insignificant as far as history is concerned.)  These three men held varying beliefs concerning Sola Scriptura.  Whereas Luther (and to a lesser extent Calvin) allowed things not prohibited by the Scripture, Zwingli insisted that it is important to respect God’s silence.  To him, if something was not mentioned in the Bible, it was not allowed.  Luther was less strict, believing that if God had not spoken against a practice, then it was up to man to decide.  However, Luther’s freedom did not extend to doctrine.  To all of the reformers, all doctrines concerning faith were explicitly stated in Scripture.  This is the key aspect of Sola Scriptura.  The position is simply, that any matters of truth and doctrine concerning faith is explicitly stated in Scripture.  If God requires something of us, Sola Scriptura says, then it is in the Bible.  Sola Scriptura also says that God will protect Scripture and make sure it is kept safe through the ages so that it will always be free from misteachings, and that the Bible is very easy to understand so as that any person can learn the truth of God simply by reading it.

            The first (and possibly most glaring) contradiction in this belief is that no Scripture states the principle of Sola Scriptura!  Sola Scriptura is one of the key doctrines to every denomination of Protestantism.  It defines the basis for faith to any Protestant Christian.  It is very troubling, then, from the standpoint Sola Scriptura that it is not stated in the Bible.  Remember, Sola Scriptura says that every doctrine that God has set forth for us is contained in the pages of Scripture.  Why then does it nowhere say that Scripture alone is valid as the basis for faith?  For Zwingli, this is especially problematic, because he believed that any teaching not made explicitly in the Bible is untrue.  For Luther and Calvin, and most Protestants today, this is still somewhat troubling, however it is not prohibited by Scripture, so we could say that this is simply a common sense, rational axiom from which to start.  However, it does not come from scripture, so the belief then, that Scripture alone is valid as a basis for faith, is a tradition itself, begun by Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Nonetheless, it is one statement.  Let us then put it aside as the sole tradition of the Protestants.  This itself is not too troublesome.

Protestants do tend to counter this criticism by pointing to 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NIV)  However, this passage does not say anything about Scripture alone being sufficient or allowed.  This passage makes clear 2 points.  First, it tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God.  This is very important, and all Christians agree on this.  Second, it tells us that all Scripture is beneficial, and that we can learn from all Scripture.  This is also very important.  What it does not say is that Scripture is the only thing that is beneficial.  Protestants tend to point to the ending: “so that man may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  However, all this speaks of is that Scripture will help men to be thoroughly equipped, or complete.  It says that Scripture can finish the job, it does not say that Scripture must begin the job too.  If a proponent of Sola Scriptura wishes to use this passage as proof, however, he has a problem, because Ephesians 4:11-13 says something very similar in reference to pastors:


It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)


Read this verse carefully.  It tells us that pastors and teachers will prepare God’s people for service, build them up, bring them to unity in the faith (which means they will all believe the same thing, an important point which will be touched on later), and attain the fullness of Christ.  This passage tells us that pastors and teachers will lead us to the fullness of Christ!  That would seem to mean that we do not even need Scripture!  Of course no Christian, Catholic or Protestant, would interpret this passage to mean that we do not need Scripture.  However, if one is to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 so straightforwardly, then one must also read Ephesians 4:11-13 the same way.  Why do Protestants not do this?  It is because of the way they interpret the Scriptures.

            Interpretation is a very large part of any reading of the Bible, and it is the key for the arriving at every Protestant doctrine.  A fancy way to talk about interpreting Scripture is to say that a person is exegeting them, or performing exegesis.  Protestants take great pride in exegesis, which makes sense because it is very important if every belief has to be taken straight from the often confusing words of the Bible.  Protestants also like to say that Catholics are bad at exegesis, because that way it is easy to dismiss Catholics when they use Bible passages to prove their beliefs.  In other words, Protestants say that their interpretations are right, and the Catholics interpretations are wrong.  But how do they know which interpretations are right and which ones are wrong?

            Protestants know which passages are right and which are wrong because the founders of their church told them which passages are right.  All of the major Protestant founders wrote large works on the Bible, and on what their interpretations of it were.  Calvin wrote his famous Commentaries and Institutes.  Luther wrote many different works.  These were all put together and form most of what is called The Book of Concord, which is a huge book explaining what the Lutheran Church believes about God and the Bible.  Zwingli also had many works.  The key problem for Protestants, however, is that these interpretations are all different.  Zwingli would said that the Bible did not even permit music during church, so he had all organs destroyed in any churches he had power over (in Switzerland).  Luther and Calvin did not believe this.  Meanwhile, they were disagreeing, and writing critiques of one another, about a belief called Double Predestination, which is, put simply, the idea that God decided to send certain people to Hell before they were even born.  Calvin said that this was in the Bible.  Luther insisted it was not.  The followers of each of these men believed what they taught, and in turn instructed their children in these beliefs.  As the Protestant movement grew bigger, more people in each of the new denominations felt that they had a better interpretation of Scripture than the rest of their denomination, so they split off and formed their own.  This continued to the point that in 1989, there were over 23,000 different denominations! (World Census of Religious Activities, United Nations, 1989)  This means that there are at least 23,000 different ways to interpret the Bible.  A number of these “denominations” are probably cults whose leaders have deliberately misinterpreted the Bible to prove what they wish to, however the vast majority of them are simply Christians who in earnestly seeking the truth from the Scriptures have come to different conclusions.

            This presents a huge problem for Protestants.  For one thing, if God kept His Scripture safe and free from misteachings, as Sola Scriptura says, and if it were so easy to learn the truth from, there would certainly not be 23,000 different interpretations!  Protestants defend against this claim with two rebuttals, each of them equally flawed.  Some Protestants say that the reason there are so many different denominations is that people abuse the Bible, and misinterpret it on purpose.  As has been pointed out, this does happen, but not enough to create 23,000 false teachings.  Also, the Protestants that say this almost always say that it is their denomination which has it right, and that all of the rest are the ones which went wrong.  The other half of this argument is when Protestants say that God will reveal the truth of His word to those who are truly seeking Him, and to those that live good, sinless lifestyles.  The problem with this is very easy to see.  If we limit Protestants to 3 major denominations, such as Lutherans, Southern Baptists, and Methodists, then each of these groups contains millions (if not more) of people.  If God reveals His truth to those who truly seek Him and live good lifestyles, then that means that the millions and millions of people in two of these denominations are all sinners who do not truly seek after God.  Obviously this is not true!  There are just as many very, very faithful Baptists as there are Lutherans as there are Methodists.  If a Protestant does not make this argument, then they make the other argument, which is that all (or most) of the denominations have it right, and that they are all coming to different conclusions but they are all trying to do what God wants.  They say basically that each person has to find what is right for him or herself.  This is a very dangerous statement.  Jesus is “the truth, the way, and the life.”  There is only one truth, and it is the truth that Jesus teaches us.  To say that all denominations are right or that each person has to find their own truth is to deny that God is truth.  It is to say that the truth of the world is up to us and not God.  It is the same excuse that people use when they do not want to follow God’s rules, so they say that the truth is up to each person.  Of course, Protestants don’t usually mean it in such a way, but that is what they are saying nonetheless!

            The other major problem with the different interpretations for Sola Scriptura is that it defeats the very purpose of Sola Scriptura itself.  Sola Scriptura says that everything that is needed is in Scripture.  If this were true, then Protestants would not need to teach their children anything.  All they would need to do is wait until the children learned to read and hand them a Bible.  This would obviously not work, however, because every child would come up with different teachings.  They might be similar, but they would not be the same, and would probably be very different in some places.  This is why Protestants teach their children what to believe, and send their children to Sunday school to learn what to believe.  Each denomination has its own set of beliefs that they teach because they have been handed down from generation to generation.  In fact, Lutherans are supposed to learn their beliefs from The Book of Concord, not just the Bible.  To join most Lutheran churches, a person must actually confess (which in this case just means to state or profess) that they believe in everything in The Book of Concord, NOT just the Bible!  Many denominations have similar systems.  If you go to the book store, you will find many huge books called Bible commentaries.  These books go through the Bible verse by verse and explain the interpretations of the author.  There are some very standard commentaries, such as Adam Clarke’s, Albert Barnes’, and Matthew Henry’s, which is the most famous commentary ever written.  These commentaries exist because if people just tried to interpret the Bible for themselves, nobody would come to the same conclusions.  The commentaries explain what has traditionally been believed by Protestants.  So then, believers in Sola Scriptura get their beliefs from their traditions of Bible interpretations!  No Protestant will admit this, but it is blatantly and painfully obvious.  Why does a Lutheran believe something different from a Methodist?  The answer is because Luther interpreted the Bible one way, and John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) interpreted it a different way.  A Lutheran learns the Lutheran tradition and a Methodist learns the Methodist tradition.  The very premise of Sola Scriptura requires that there be traditions; if there weren’t, nobody would believe the same things at all.  The difference between the Catholic Tradition and the Protestant traditions that must be considered is that Protestant traditions trace back to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others, whereas Catholic Tradition traces back to Paul, Peter, James, John, and so on! 

      Another major problem with these various interpretations is that Peter himself spoke

against them.  Reading 1 Peter 1:20-21, we see that he tells us, “First of all, you should

know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one's own interpretation, because no

prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke

from God.”  Here we have Peter explicitly telling us that Scripture is not up to our interpretation.  He gives a good reason, too: everything in Scripture has come from God.  As is most are aware (and the Bible tells us time and time again), God is truth.  In fact, He is the only truth.  This fact of a single, universal truth precludes the idea of private interpretation.  Protestants often use this verse to back up the inspiration of Scripture, and rightly so.  However, they tend to ignore the first part of Peter’s statement, or else turn to their idea that Scripture is easy enough to be understood by all.  This idea, that Scripture is plain, is a very widely used Protestant argument.  Peter debunks this too, and right in the Scriptures!  Read his statement, from 2 Peter 3:16: “He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.”  This verse is often used by Protestants to prove that Paul’s writings are Scripture.  Obviously, this is clearly stated by the text.  However, as is the case with other verses, like 2 Peter 1:20, they ignore the main intent of the text and only use it for what it implies (that Paul’s writings are Scriptures).  In other words, they use Peter’s words as a tool to prove what they want, but ignore what he was actually trying to convey!  Peter here explicitly writes that a lot of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand.”  This is in direct contradiction to the notion that the Bible is easy enough to be understood by all.  What’s more, remember that only the most educated people of the time were actually able to read.  This means that Peter is telling very well educated people that Paul’s writings are even hard for them to understand!  Clearly this must have even greater implications for the average person.  (The question must also be asked if God would provide difficult to understand writings as the sole source of His teachings).  Peter goes on to say something that should make every believer in Sola Scriptura shudder: “The untaught…. twist them [Paul’s writings] to their own destruction.”  Peter clearly refers to the untaught.  If the untaught twist the Scriptures, then there must be somebody who is to teach them.  Was Peter referring to the 23,000 teachers that exist today, all teaching different doctrines?  No, he was referring to the Church that was instituted by Jesus Christ. 

             The history of Sola Scriptura does not provide it any defense, either.  Its origins are much different from what most people realize.  In fact, the very first people to believe in Sola Scriptura lived at the time of Jesus.  They were called Sadducees.  The Old Testament Scriptures, which were obviously the only Scriptures available at the time, do not teach much, or even anything, about the soul, the afterlife, eternal reward (Heaven) and punishment (Hell), and even angels!  Because of this, the Sadducees did not believe in any of these things, especially the afterlife, Heaven and Hell.  The Bible tells us how Jesus rebukes them for their beliefs.  However, their beliefs came from an ancient form of Sola Scriptura.  After that, the idea completely disappeared for 1500 years.  No ancient Christians believed in it, or could even imagine it (for a very good reason which will be addressed next).  This is problematic because Protestants believed that with Sola Scriptura they were getting back to the original way of things, however the concept was never believed in the first place.  Other than the Sadducees, the entire idea of Sola Scriptura was completely new and created by the reformers.  It is actually impossible that the first Christians could have believed in Sola Scriptura.

            The reason that no ancient Christian could imagine the idea of Sola Scriptura and that it was impossible for them to believe it is because there were no Scriptures until 350 years after Christ’s resurrection.  Even what we would call the Old Testament scriptures were for all intents and purposes nonexistent to the people of Jesus’ time.  Of course they existed, as the Jewish Torah (although which Prophetic books were included in the Scriptures at the time widely varied.  Some Pharisees may have had Micah, whereas some may not have.  Some even had books which we do not consider to be Scripture today).  However, In 35 AD, the number of actual copies of these Scriptures in existence was very small, and certainly none but perhaps the wealthiest of wealthy people actually possessed a copy, only the Pharisees did (and yes, the Sadducees obviously were able to read from the Scriptures).  The Scriptures that we are talking about, however, the New Testament, did not exist until 397, when it was put together by the Council of Carthage.  The various epistles of Paul, Peter, John, and so forth were written only to specific churches around the world.  Certainly the letters were copied, but not enough that every church would have had a copy of every epistle.  More so, only the churches could have had copies; it would have been impossible for even a small number of Christians to have their own private copies of these letters.  On top of this, the letters were not written to explain the faith completely.  They each served a very specific purpose, which was usually to answer a number of questions that had been sent to the writer, or to admonish one of the church communities for sinning.  This is a historical fact and is very obvious from reading the letters.  In fact, in most of the letters, Paul tells those he is writing to follow the teachings he gave them when he was there, but does not say what those teachings were.  This is because instruction in the faith was made by the oral teachings which were delivered by the apostles when they preached, not by Scripture.

            Even more importantly, Protestants have to realize that the canon of the New Testament (which books are in it) was decided based on tradition.  When the council of Carthage came together in 397, there were a lot of different books available.  For example there was a book called The Apocalypse of Peter, and there was an epistle written by Clement.  There were also many different gospels available.  One of the reasons that the Council came together was because there were so many writings available that people were treating as Scripture, however many of them were heresies that taught falsehoods, such as all of the Gnostic gospels.  The Church realized that Scripture was profitable and necessary (as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17), but it was important that what people treated as inspired Scripture actually was inspired Scripture and was not untruths created by people trying to put forth their own teachings.  The biggest problem for Protestants is how they did this: by comparing the various books with the traditions that had been passed down from Paul, James, John, Peter, and so forth, with some other methods, and with a lot of prayer, of course.  The Bible then, that Protestants turn to in opposition of tradition, is itself based on tradition.  The original teachings of Christ and the Apostles were always passed down by word and oral teaching and tradition.  The New Testament was put together at the Council of Carthage to do as Paul tells Timothy, to make them “thouroughly equipped” [emphasis added].  The Bible was intended to finish the job, not to do all of the job. 

This point can simply not be overstated.  Protestants often treat the Bible as if Jesus came down and handed it to somebody.  This is not at all the truth.  It was put together based on the teachings that Jesus gave to the Apostles, and the teachings that they handed down over the centuries.  Other religions, such as Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe that God actually gave their founder a completed Holy Book.  The real God has not done this.  He did not even do this in the first place when He gave the Jews His truths.  He gave to them Moses, who wrote down the law God revealed to Him.  He gave them the prophets, who wrote down the revelations they received from God.  He gave them the Jewish priests, who governed through tradition.  While nobody on earth is God or understands God’s plans completely, it is still an important question for those who believe in Sola Scriptura to ask why, if the Bible contains everything needed for salvation, did God not provide it complete to someone.  It is true that God created the Bible, and that He did it through the epistles of the apostles, and we don’t have a right to question His methods.  However, the fact remains that if the Bible alone is what is necessary for faith, then for the first 350 years of Christ’s reign, nobody had the knowledge that was necessary for salvation.  This actually contradicts the Bible’s teaching that God wants every body to be saved.  If He does, he would not deny people the knowledge of salvation for 3 centuries. 

            Because of all of this Protestants tend to ignore the first 1500 years of Christian history and begin at the Reformation, but history even has to say some negative things about this.  To begin with, the standard 8th grade social studies story of Martin Luther that portrays him as a champion of truth and the great innovator of Sola Scriptura is incorrect.  According to this common account, Luther became so distressed with corruption in the Church that he humbly turned to the Bible, so he could return to the truths that God taught.  In other words, he supposedly based his beliefs on what he read in the Bible.  However, the truth is actually the reverse, and much more interesting.  It is true that Luther became distressed with corruption that existed at the time (though it has long since ceased).  However, he did not turn immediately to the Bible.  He first developed his own ideas about what was right and wrong, and he based them on his personal experience.  He then tried to present these ideas as truths and to contrast them with the Church teachings he called wrong.  Unfortunately for him, he found few ears to listen.  In 1517, he posted his famous 95 Thesis, and in 1518 he argued against the Church at the Augsburg Confession.  At the time of Augsburg, Luther already had most of his beliefs set in his mind.  However, he also made clear at the confession that he held tradition as more important than the Bible!

It was not until 10 months later at the Leipzig Disputation that he first asserted the Bible as supreme in any way, and he did this only as an excuse.  Because Luther could not find any support for his beliefs, he needed an authoritative source to say he was correct.  The Bible was the only authority he could turn to that wouldn’t talk back and correct him.  One of the key points that Protestants hold is that the Bible is easy to understand.  Anybody who has ever opened one will tell you, however, that this is not true, because there are many points which can be interpreted in different ways.  It was Luther’s strategy to interpret verses in ways that supported his claims.  This is not without precedent.  Satan used different interpretations of Scripture to try to trick Jesus during His temptations.  Jesus correctly interprets the Scriptures to respond to Satan, and to avoid sin.  Today, groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons use terrible Bible interpretations to teach things like the idea that Jesus is not divine, and that all people can evolve into gods in the afterlife!  This is why the world needs a way to make sure that the Scriptures are interpreted correctly, like Jesus was able to.  As has been stated before, without an authority to say what is correct and what is not, problems will arise, such as 23,000 different denominations.  The Church had always done this, as a result of the capability Jesus passed on to it. 

It was Luther’s belief that he was this supreme authority when it came to interpreting the Bible and faith, leading to some very troubling statements.  To begin with, Luther’s belief in his own authority is very noticeable in his own words.  Luther, for example, said of his ability to judge on matters of faith, “My judgment is at the same time God's and not mine.[1]  It is important to realize that this statement goes far beyond even what the Pope claims as his infallibility on matters of faith and doctrine.  If a Protestant is to criticize the Pope on this account, what can be said of Luther?  This is not the limit of Luther’s blasphemy.  He is also recorded as having made the statement, “I do not admit that my doctrine can be judged by anyone, even by the angels. He who does not receive my doctrine cannot be saved.”[2]  This is not the only time he stated that angels could not judge his doctrine.  In perhaps Luther’s worst statement, he says that judging him is the same as judging God(!!): “Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.”[3]  In his article An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull (1521), Luther even went so far as to introduce the idea that he might be a prophet.  The whole of his writings make it clear that he believed himself far more infallible than Popes are said to be.  In fact, this led to his being given the sarcastic title of “Super-Pope.”  Of course, just because a man behaves or speaks wrongly, it does not mean that his teachings are incorrect.  This is also true of Luther, and just because he spoke such blasphemy it doesn’t mean that his ideas were wrong.  However, what is important is that Luther’s belief in his own supreme authority is the basis for his teachings of Sola Scriptura.  As has been shown, using the Bible alone is not possible, because it leads to thousands of different interpretations.  Luther must have realized this.  This is why he had to proclaim so strongly his own authority.  If he did not, people would have no reason to believe his interpretations over their own.  Jesus told us that we would recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  It seems that Luther’s motivations, the seed to his thoughts, were then at least in part selfish, and his doctrine thus seems to be fruit from a bad tree.  This cannot be considered lightly.

            Luther not only relied on his own “supremacy” to back up his beliefs, but he also went so far as to doubt and ignore the Word of God when it disagreed with him.  The most prominent example is that of the book of James.  It so strongly opposes Luther’s beliefs that he actually wanted it removed from the Bible!  This is quite a statement from someone who said that the Bible serves as the final and last authority for all matters of faith.  It is incredibly hypocritical.  Luther wrote, in his Preface to the New Testament, “St. James' Epistle is really an epistle of straw… it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.”  This is especially because the book of James contains the largely anti-Protestant statement, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24).  This (along with 1 Corinthians 15:29) is possibly the single most anti-Protestant statement in the entire Bible, as it clearly, clearly says that a man is not justified by faith alone.  Protestants have since created a variety of ways to explain away this verse (though all fail upon examination), but Luther did not have the luxury of time to develop these ideas, so his solution was to condemn God’s Word instead of respect it.  He also did this with the gospels, stating that John’s gospel alone is worthwhile.  Also in his Preface to the New Testament, Luther wrote, “In a word, St. John's Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul's Epistles, especially Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, and St. Peter's first Epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and good for you to know, even though you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine.  Here Luther shows his desire and need to pick and choose from books of the Bible.  Note that he does not say these books are his favorite, or are simply best.  He says instead that the rest of the New Testament was never meant to be read!  He was particularly hostile toward Hebrews, because it support the Catholic Mass.  What Luther did then was to select those books which taught doctrines against his beliefs and claim that they are not important, and that they were in fact not meant to exist.  He clearly, then, does not uphold the Word of God as he claims.  Rather, he used the Word of God to prove his own beliefs, ignoring or condemning it where God disagreed with him.  All in all, he wrote that Jude, James, Hebrews (largely regarded by Protestants and Catholics alike as the greatest theological work ever written), and Revelation are not apostolic, and thus uninspired.    

Protestants today are faced with similar problems, though instead of condemning the Bible, they usually resort to some unusual interpretive technique to prove their point.  For instance, in trying to avoid multiple interpretations, Protestants claim that the Bible must be interpreted literally except where there is an exceedingly clear reason to be symbolic.  However, often when a verse is cited which supports Catholicism or disagrees with them, they claim that it must be interpreted symbolically, even when there is not an exceedingly clear reason to do so, thus violating their own principles.  Perhaps the most important example of this comes with John 6:53-55:


So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.  Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.”


There is no reason to take this symbolically.  In fact, the literalness of this statement disturbs Jesus’ disciples so much that after this, many of them leave and stop following Jesus (John 6:66).  Additionally, the Greek word for eat in verse 54 actually means to chew or to gnaw, eliminating the possibility that the verse should be symbolic (it could be possible to symbolically eat the bread of life, but to symbolically chew it makes no sense).  Even so, Protestants must take it symbolic for their doctrines to stand up (though notably Lutherans take this verse as it is). 

            Another method used to make Sola Scriptura stand up is to use circular reasoning.  This is possibly the most often used technique.  It goes back to the fact that Luther’s doctrines were decided before he turned to the Bible, and that all Protestants have their beliefs because of their own traditions.  The way that this works is that a Protestant already believes Catholicism is wrong, so any time a verse is cited that supports it, they begin with the idea that it can’t mean what the Catholics say, so as much as it may seem to, it must mean something else.  This is somewhat confusing, so for an example consider James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Before a Protestant opens the Bible, he or she already believes that justification is by faith alone, and that works are irrelevant.  Because of this, when Protestants reads James 2:24, they begin with the idea that it can’t possibly mean man is really justified by works, so it must mean something else (note that this also violates the principle of taking everything literally).  If they are asked how they know that it doesn’t mean faith alone is not enough, they respond by saying, “because Jesus saves us with faith alone!”  This is the same thing as answering the question, “what does indemnification mean?” by saying, “to indemnify.”  The reasoning is hopelessly circular, but Protestants have to resort to it because it is the only way to make Sola Scriptura stand up to criticism.      

            Lastly, those who believe in Sola Scriptura have to violate their own principles or else deny very basic Christian beliefs.  For instance, the fact that Jesus is God is not in the Bible.  As Christians, we know that Jesus is God because Paul, Peter, and the other apostles passed the knowledge to their successors and so on, and the tradition of the Catholic Church preserved that knowledge and taught it to every generation.  That is the reason that Christians know Jesus is God.  Modern day Protestants have developed arguments to try to imply Jesus’ divinity from the Bible, but they tend to be very unconvincing unless a person has a predisposition to believe that Jesus is God.  This allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach their doctrine of a purely human Jesus by using the Bible.  It also helps atheists when they try to prove Christianity is false or inconsistent.  This also applies to the Trinity.  The idea of the Trinity is not in the Bible.  Again, Protestants have developed ways to try to prove this from the Scriptures, but the arguments are very weak and do not convince skeptics or other religions.  In fact, the key verse usually used by Protestants to prove the Trinity is not even in new Bibles because it was discovered that the older translators actually added the verse to try to make sure the Trinity was in the Bible!  Similar problems apply to the idea of Hell (where the Biblical case is actually relatively inconsistent and weak), Sunday Worship (it is just as easy to use the Bible to prove the Sabbath should be kept on Saturday as it is to prove that worship should be The Lord’s Day), and many other very basic Christian beliefs.  All of these ideas come directly from Catholic tradition, but most Protestants do not realize this.

Few Protestants realize any of the facts which have been presented above, a problem which causes much general trouble in the Christian world.  It is why there is often so much argument amongst Christians, both between Catholics and Protestants and between different denominations of Protestants.  This disunity began in the early 1500s, not just with the split between the Catholic Church and Protestants, but also in the often very bitter disagreements that took place between men such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli.  It is important that unity be achieved amongst Christians; Paul called for this long ago when he asked, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13)  We should carefully consider the words of the apostle, including his insistence in 1 Corinthians 12:25 that there be no schism in the Body of Christ.  Given the natural tendency of human beings, it is difficult to understand how Paul could expect all Christians to be of like mind until it is realized that he knew the Church had been formed to proclaim and preserve truth for all time.  Thus, those who proclaim the doctrine of Sola Scriptura are urged to consider the facts: Luther fell back upon Sola Scriptura largely as an excuse, Sola Scriptura is self denying because the Bible does not teach it as a doctrine, Sola Scriptura does nothing but produce thousands of different interpretations, Sola Scriptura can only be defended by using hypocritical Biblical interpretation, and most importantly, the Bible that Sola Scriptura says must alone be relied on was actually created by picking only those books which best represented the Tradition that the Church had held for 350 years, passed down from Christ through the Apostles!

[1] Henry  O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, 20  / Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522

[2] Will Durant, The Reformation, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957, 422, from Werke {Erlangen}, XXVIII, 144/Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522

[3] Henry  O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, 15  / Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522