A small sola scriptura gotcha

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A friend of mine, in responding to a Sola Scriptura claim, launched this interesting little gotcha.  It’s a small criticism, but one that I had never considered, so I’ll include it here.  The context is a discussion of 2 Timothy 3:15-17, which is the standard SS proof text.  So, read the following in light of that passage.

But what if we could somehow grant that all existing NT Scripture is also included in Paul’s statements here?  Still, using this passage to argue for SS is disastrous.  Surely you agree that the book of 2 Timothy was inerrant from the very moment Paul wrote it.  The same day Paul wrote 2 Timothy, the book of 2 Timothy was 100% true.  Yet, at the moment Paul finished writing 2 Timothy, the book of Revelation (and possibly some other NT books) had not even been written yet!  So if Paul taught that “all currently existing Scripture is utterly sufficient for all the Church’s needs“, then you must believe that the Church has absolutely no need whatsoever to read the book of Revelation!  After all, if the pre-Revelation inspired Scriptures are 100% sufficient for the Church, then what need does the Church have of additional books?

That was an interesting thought exercise, but that’s the sort of absurdity that SS leads to.  In case you’re wondering what books were written after 2 Timothy, no one can say absolutely, but that would probably include Titus, 2 Peter, and Revelation.

Another gem:

Finally, consider the fact that apostles were still alive for decades after 2 Timothy was written.  It would have been disastrous for a Christian to adhere to SS at that time!  Just imagine someone in 65 A.D. suggesting that we “ask the apostles about some doctrine”, and someone else responding, “No, we don’t need to ask the apostles anything.  The Scriptures alone are all we need.  The oral teaching of the apostles is irrelevant.”  What appalling hubris that would be!

A small sola scriptura gotcha

2 thoughts on “A small sola scriptura gotcha

  1. Mark,

    i believe i’ve told you i was raised Church of Christ. The rationale i encountered growing up was that this Scripture was *not* making a claim about only extant Scripture current to the time of Paul’s writing, but that this was a *prophetic* statement about all the Scripture that would become the NT.

    Why take Paul to mean this? From what i was able to tell, no other reason than a *prior* commitment to Sola Scriptura. –the sort of logical move that Protestants don’t accept from each other on a host of issues about which they disagree.

    Also i was raised being taught that the early church was *not* Sola Scriptura. Rather, it was the system of miraculous gifts among church members that was their source for Christian revelation (plus the OT). How do we get to SS then? Cessationism. The gifts naturally “died out,” the books of the NT were completed, and the church was meant to transition to SS.

    But notice this seems (to me anyway) to entail something pretty scary. It entails that really *no one* can be the same church as the NT church. Yet this cessationist rationale is common among *restorationist* churches. (?!) i eventually decided there was just no way to resolve that “splinter in my mind” while adhering to both the desire to find the NT church and an adherence to SS. One of them had to go.

    1. Mark says:

      Thanks for your comments Guy. Certainly the face of Sola Scriptura has changed over the last 500 years, with different ideas of what it means or how it works, but one thing remains the same. For Luther is was a tool of emancipation from his bonds to the Catholic Church. Following that example, every schism/church split since has rested the authority for its revision of Christian truth on the foundation of a person’s inviolable authority to interpret Scripture in accord with his own conscience. I sometimes wonder, if Luther could get in a time machine and fast forward to our age and see the result of his protest, whether he would have proceeded differently.

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