“100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura” – Review

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100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura

by Dave Armstrong

 
No belief is more central to Protestantism than sola Scriptura, which says the Bible is the only infallible, authoritative source of Christian faith and practice. It was a main rallying cry of the original Protestant Reformers and remains so today. While Catholics root their authority in the three-legged stool of Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the teaching magisterium, Protestants pledge ultimate allegiance only to the first—the Bible.

What this means is that on that leg, Protestantism stands or falls. If sola Scriptura is true, Catholicism is false—or at least contains excess doctrines, like barnacles on a ship. But if sola Scriptura is false, Protestantism is completely undermined.

As a Protestant apologist, Dave Armstrong understood this dilemma. So once he discovered that sola Scriptura was a man-made doctrine he converted to the Catholic Church. Since then, through his blog and many books, Dave has helped others spot the holes in sola Scriptura. And in a new book, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura (Catholic Answers, paperback, 134 pages), he compiles all the arguments in one place.

One common objection you’ll hear from Protestants whenever sola Scriptura is under attack is that the attacker misrepresents the doctrine. There are, admittedly, several nuanced definitions of sola Scriptura among various Protestants. For instance, some groups differentiate between solo Scriptura, the notion that Scripture is the only authority, and sola Scriptura, the notion that Scripture is the only infallible authority while other lesser authorities exist. (However, the guys at Called to Communion show how both systems ultimately reduce to the same thing.)

To counter this objection, Dave makes clear in the Introduction that the sola Scriptura he demolishes is not a straw man, but the real thing as advocated by its strongest supporters. He defines sola Scriptura by quoting its definition from three reputable Protestant teachers including Norman Geisler, Keith Mattison, and James White, and it’s their common definition he disproves.

Dave’s book reads like an onslaught. He shoots holes in sola Scriptura from several angles from Jewish tradition, to Greek etymology, to first-century culture, to biblical theology. He holds nothing back and leaves sola Scriptura hopelessly slain into pieces. To his credit, Dave does all this very charitably, while steering clear of the polemical tone you’ll find among some apologists. But he’s ruthless and complete in showing how sola Scriptura ultimately comes up short.

Surprisingly, Dave saves the most devastating argument for #55 where he points out sola Scriptura’s Achilles’ heel: the doctrine is not explicitly found in Scripture. Therefore you need an outside authority to confirm the doctrine, which in turn violates its very principle. To say it another way, sola Scriptura cannot be proved by Scripture alone.

As an aside, it should be noted that the book’s title is a bit deceiving. Several arguments are less “biblical” and more based on logic, reason, or history. Also, some are a bit of a stretch, and probably wouldn’t stand on their own. Nevertheless, collectively, these 100 arguments build an airtight case against sola Scriptura which should trouble any Protestant. After all, it only takes one to topple the whole sola Scriptura tower.

In 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, Dave delivers plenty more than that and shows sola Scriptura proponents that they are in fact two legs short of a full stool.

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  • Marc

    Can’t wait to read it Dave! Sounds like the perfect drop off read for my Protestant friends…I’ve tried with Karl Keatings ‘Attack on Romanism’ but they’ve complianted it’s too big, ha!! Should be noted to all reading this blog that that book is one of the all time great reads re Catholic apologetics. Karl explains we (Catholics) approach the Bible as a regular book and allow what it tells us to determine how/why it is inspired works (which of course is because JS gives keys/authority to Peter, Peter to Leo & so on passing on to the Church and it’s sea of Bishops the authority to choose the inspired works, which is now the NT) and any other argument trying to prove how they are truly inspired is just a circular arguement….whereas the Catholics is a closed argument with a historical/fully logical explanation for how we know they are inspired. Same premise / support for the argument your refering to in this exchange Brandon/Dave just a different way of approaching the idea. Anyway, thanks for what sounds like is a great book – God Bless!! PS…for others reading this blog…another GREAT read is Scot Hahn’s ‘A Father Who Keeps His Promises’. To all Protestants especially, look it up, buy it and read it…the story of Salvation is not possible without the New Jerusalem…which can ONLY be the Roman Catholic Church.

  • haroldcrews

    Protestants on occasion have been known to use non-Biblical arguments themselves. They frequently attempt to use history to refute the holiness of the Church. And they’ll attempt to employ logic as well. Such as claiming during the last supper that Christ could not be present in the Eucharist since He was physically holding the Eucharist.

  • Dave Armstrong

    Justin,

    That was the editor’s call. He thought it best to restrict it to the best 100 (I had a book with 620 before, but some were just one sentence, etc.!) and make it on the brief side: probably because the Catholic book market is pretty slow lately. Make money on volume with a $12.95 list price . . . .

    Doug (and Brandon),

    I tried my best to make each one related to Scripture in some fashion (and my editor, Todd Aglialoro looked them over as well), but some might have “slipped through the cracks.” I’d be curious which ones are considered “non-biblical.”

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      I don’t have my book in front of me, but I’m not suggesting they were “non-biblical”–in the sense that they contradict Scripture–only that they did not cite or quote any specific biblical passages. It’s not a flaw of your book just an aside I thought I’d point out (assuming some Protestants dismiss the books by flippantly claiming, “Ha! Argument ## doesn’t even quote Scripture and yet Armstrong claims it to be ‘BIBLICAL’?!?!? This whole book is terrible.”)

      • Dave Armstrong

        Gotcha. “Biblical” can be defined in different ways. In this book I was utilizing a broader definition of “pertaining to the Bible in some fashion” rather than “arguments [always] utilizing specific Bible passages.” Merriam-Webster Online for “biblical” gives for its first definition: “of, relating to, or being in accord with the Bible.”

        I think your hypothetical flippant Protestant critic would have a point if I had used the term “exegetical” rather than “biblical,” since that means specifically argumentation from biblical texts.

        Thus some of the arguments don’t cite a specific Bible passage yet have to do with the Bible in some way. #56-58, and #64 are of this type.

        But I did limit those sorts of arguments as much as I could. E.g., I don’t think I had any arguments about the canon of Scripture, because that is not strictly a biblical argument in the more narrow sense: one can’t cite Scripture in order to determine which books belong in the Bible.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Good points all around, Dave. In my discussions with Protestants, I almost always begin with the ‘canon question’ for two reasons:

          1) ‘Sola scriptura’ depends on a defined canon. So unless we agree on the canon, ‘sola Scriptura’ is meaningless.

          2) By accepting the canon–at least the NT canon–Protestants implicit accept the early Church’s authority. That puts them in a very awkward position since that authority stood above the non-existent Scriptures, which it canonized. There’s no principled way to reconcile both ‘sola Scriptura’ with an infallible canon, which is why you have guys like R.C. Sproul suggesting strange things like, “The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books.” Well if it’s a fallible collection, how can you be sure whether the books are infallible? Or if there aren’t any other infallible, divinely-inspired books outside of your accepted canon?

          • Dave Armstrong

            Then they say all the books of the (Catholic) Bible are “self-attesting,” which opens a whole ‘nother very difficult can of worms. :-)

  • http://www.justinboulmay.wordpress.com/ Justin Boulmay

    It’s only 134 pages? It seems like a pretty short book for such a large task.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      True, but most of the arguments are ably condensed to just a few paragraphs. I think the length was exactly right. If the book was any longer, the arguments would begin blending together and the author would risk being repetitive.

  • Doug Beaumont

    Your last paragraph is an important one. I understand the need for catchy titles, but accuracy is important too. I think this is a good book for beginners, but some of the weaknesses might make the strengths easier to ignore.

  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy