Without the infallible declaration of the Church, there would be no way of knowing what books belong in the canon of Scripture. Since there is no inspired canon of Scripture, the “Scripture alone” is not even enough to establish what Scriptures are truly Scripture. Therefore, the doctrine of sola Scriptura is self-defeating.

This is true. I am looking on page 23 of my Bible and it has the list of books. The books all together number 66, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. This is often referred to as the “canon” of Scripture. “Canon” (Gk. kanon) means “rule” or “measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the collection or a “rule” of books that Christians believe belong in the Bible. There are some variations among Christian traditions concerning the number of books. The Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches all use different canons (as well, some eastern churches will vary still). The Catholic and Orthodox include a group of books in their Bibles referred to as the Deuterocanonical books (”second canon”) or, as Protestants would call it, the “Apocrypha” (although the Orthodox church is not quite as settled upon the status of the Apocrypha).

The question How do you know what books belong in the Bible? is a significant one indeed and presents, what I believe to be, the most persuasive argument against sola Scriptura that there is. The Catholics and Orthodox will normally refer to the establishment of these books as part of the canon by fourth century councils. Catholics would further refer to the teachings of the council of Trent (1545-1563) which dogmatically and infallibly declared the current Catholic canon (including the Apocrypha) as being authoritative.

I believe that the 66 books of the Protestant canon belong in the Bible, no more no less. I believe that all 66 books are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Yet the list on page 23 of my Bible is not part of the canon. In other words, the list itself is not part of the inspired word of God. I am using the New American Standard Bible, but it is the same in any version of any language. Even the NET Bible does not have an inspired list—even in the footnotes! There is no early Greek or Hebrew manuscript that solves the problem either. Therefore I have a potential difficulty. Since do not believe in an infallible human authority that has determined what books belong in the Bible, how can I be certain what books belong in the Bible and still profess sola Scriptura?

It would seem that the Scripture alone is not sufficient to establish the Scripture alone! Do we have an fallible canon of infallible books?

It was R.C. Sproul who first made the claim (that I know of) that Protestants have a fallible canon of infallible books. A fallible canon of infallible books? What good is that? Catholics often jest about the seemingly ironic situation in which advocates of sola Scriptura find themselves. Catholics claim that they, due to their belief in a living infallible authority, have an infallible collection of infallible books, and that we are just borrowing from them!

Not only this (as an aside), but what about interpretation? Not only do Protestants not believe in an infallible authority to dogmatize which books belong in the Bible, but they don’t believe in an infallible authority to interpret the Bible. Therefore, we can take this to the next level. Protestants have a fallible interpretation of an fallible canon of infallible books. Ouch! Sounds like it is time to convert to Catholicism, eh?

Not so fast. In the end, this is an issue of epistemology. Epistemology deals with the question “How do you know?” How do we know the canon is correct? How do we know we have the right interpretation? Assumed within these questions is the idea of certainty. How do you know with certainty? Not only this, but how do you know with absolute certainty?

The question that I would ask is this: Do we need absolute infallible certainty about something to 1) be justified in our belief about that something, 2) to be held responsible for a belief in that something? I would answer “no” for two primary reasons:

1. This supposed need for absolute certainty is primarily the product of the enlightenment and a Cartesian epistemology. To say that we have to be infallibly certain about something before it can be believed and acted upon is setting the standard so high that only God Himself could attain to it. Outside of mathematics and analytical statements (e.g. a triangle had three sides), there is no absolute certainty, only relative certainty. This does not, however, give anyone an excuse or alleviate responsibility for belief in something.

For example, I believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. I prepare each day with this belief in mind. Each night, I set my alarm clock and review my appointments for the following day, having a certain expectation that the next day will truly come. While I have certainty about the sun rising the next day, I don’t have infallible certainty that it will. There could be some astronomical anomaly that causes the earth to stop its rotation. There could be an asteroid that comes and destroys the earth. Christ could come in the middle of the night. In short, I don’t have absolute infallible certainty about the coming of the next day. This, however, does not give me an excuse before men or God for not believing that it will come. What if I missed an early appointment the next day and told the person “I am sorry, I did not set my alarm clock because I did not have infallible certainty that this day would come.” Would that be a valid excuse? It would neither be a valid excuse to the person who I was supposed to meet or to God.

We have a term that we use for people who require infallible certainty about everything: “mentally ill.” Remember What About Bob? (I just watched that again three days ago…hilarious!) He was mentally ill because he made decisions based on the improbability factor. Because it was a possibility that something bad could happen to him if he stepped outside his house, he assumed it would happen. There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is a probability that it won’t. Simply because there is a possibility that when you step outside your house you might get hit by a bus or catch a life-threatening deceases, does not make probability.

The same can be said about the canon and interpretation of Scripture. Just because there is a possibility that we are wrong (being fallible), does not necessarily make it a probability. Therefore, we look to the evidence for the degree of probability concerning Scripture.

2. The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility. No one would claim personal infallibility. Therefore it is possible for all of us to be wrong. We all have to start with personal fallible engagement in any issue. Therefore, any belief in an infallible living authority could be wrong. As Geisler and MacKenzie put it, “The supposed need for an infallible magisterium is an epistemically insufficient basis for rising above the level of probable knowledge. Catholic scholars admit, as they must, that they do not have infallible evidence that there is an infallible teaching magisterium. They have merely what even they believe to be only probable arguments. But if this is the case, then epistemically or apologetically there is no more than a probable basis for Catholics to believe that a supposedly infallible pronouncement [either about the canon or interpretation of the canon] of their church is true” (Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, p. 216).

Here is a graph to illustrate what I mean (“Dual-Source” is the Roman Catholic view—but it is really three sources: 1) written tradition (the Bible), 2) unwritten Tradition, and the Magisterial authority of the church to interpret infallibly (Popes and bishops)):

This means that we are all floating in the same river, just different boats. Catholics (Dual-Source Theory) have a fallible belief about an infallible authority; Advocates of sola Scriptura have a fallible belief about an infallible authority. Both authorities must be substantiated by the evidence and both authorities must be interpreted by fallible people. In the end, what is the difference? Advocates of sola Scriptura just cut out the infallible middle man due to a lack of theological warrant.

Do advocates of sola Scriptura have a fallible collection of infallible books? Yes. We concede such. When all is said and done, all of our beliefs are fallible and therefore subject to error. But remember, the possibility of error does not necessitate the probability of error. We have to appeal to the evidence to decide. God would [probably] accept nothing less. 🙂

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    50 replies to "Responding to an Objection About Sola Scriptura"

    • Derek

      Hi Michael, good post. But I – as one who holds to sola scriptura and one who has had many engagements with our Orthodox brethren – found your arguments not very convincing. It sounds like you’re saying, “they have their relative truth (that Tradition is equal to or higher than scripture in terms of authority) and we have our relative truth (that scripture is our highest authority aside from God himself of course). So you keep looking to tradition, and I’ll keep looking to scripture”. “Fair enough”, they might quip, “just keep in mind, Tradition chose scripture”. Ouch. Their relative truth is based on the historical reality that an official church council decided which books were in and which where out (i.e. Hebrews vs the Didache).

    • Ed Kratz

      Kinda, but I would not use the word “relative” truth. I would say they have their evidence and we have ours. Which is most compelling or leads to the greatest degree of probability? Neither decision concerning this is going to be infallible since we all start with fallibility.

    • Doc Pagala

      Well done. Build any straw man or circular argument, it leads back to what fallible mankind can or will accept. Any doctrine is subject to fallibility as there can be no absolute even to those of us who adhere to sola Scriptura.

      What this boils down to is what is your scale of certainty? On a scale of 1 thru 10, where would you put your certainty number? On a scale where zero is in the middle, and you can go +/- zero to ten in either direction, to the illustration in the example above? Evaluate both examples. Where do you place your numbers?

      The church as a whole has divided on issues of tradition, which have little bearing on the orthodox essentials of our faith in Jesus Christ.

    • Eric Gregory

      Quick thoughts as I go through it:

      1. As soon as you said “inerrant,” you lost me. Any claim for absolute historical or moral accuracy in the Biblical is ludicrous. Read Genesis. Then read the vengeance Psalms. And then Job.

      2. There is no certainty (absolute or otherwise), that’s what faith is for.

      3. He’s disguising his arguments with epistemological claims that are irrelevant to his conclusion. Claims of fallibility in the Bible have to do with their historical inaccuracies (to the best of our knowledge), and claims about the fallibility of the Protestant canon have to do with the fact that we would have no canon without tradition. That and Martin Luther was inane to not include Greek parts of the Hebrew Scriptures because of a belief that the Hebrew was somehow better…

      4. The possibility of inaccuracy/fallibility of the canon was raised with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also, why didn’t we include the wonderful apocalypses of Esdras and other…

    • Eric Gregory


      5. The claim of Roman Catholics is not that an infallible human authority has transmitted correct dogma throughout time, but that the Holy Spirit came to PEOPLE, not through a book but through OTHER PEOPLE, and with the PEOPLE of God, there rests the correct interpretation of Scripture. (E.g., his “dual source theory” is flat wrong.) The infallibility of the pope (which is quite limited) is not, in itself, an infallible doctrine in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Irony of ironies.

      6. He didn’t address AT ALL the FACTS that (1) Scripture arises out of a tradition (without tradition that was both Eastern and Western Orthodox/Catholic, we wouldn’t have any Bible to begin with), (2) Scripture is often at odds with itself (see Amos vs. Deuteronomy, for example), or (3) Scripture itself doesn’t call itself infallible, or even inspired (2 Timothy 3:16 refers to the Hebrew Scriptures – which weren’t canonized by the time the letter was written, and not itself or any of…

    • Steve Martin

      The Word is infallible and inerrant…not the book…nor does the book have to be.

      This is a relatively new idea in Christianity, and it started in America (for the most part).

      “In the begining was the Bible, and the Bible was with God and the Bible was God.”

      So…what is the “Word”? It is Christ Jesus Himself. It is NOT the book, although He reveals Himself in the book. The Word is in preaching, as well (and a perfect preacher or a perfect sermon is NOT necessary for the Word contained therein to be perfect. And the Sacraments are the Word, as well. They are visable Word.

      Luther used to say about the Catholics and the Anabaptists, “If they use the Bible against Christ, we will use Christ against the Bible.”

      The Moslems need a perfect book. We don’t. We have a perfect Word.

    • curt

      The “probability of the evidence” seems shaky ground for several NT books – Revelations, 2 Peter, James. And probably several more depending where you set your confidence criteria for inclusion into the canon.

    • Ed Kratz


      While there were some minor exceptions with regard to some of these books, the exception in this case proves the rule. The mass majority of God’s people for 2000 years have accepted all 27 NT books with very little debate. The debate about these books often gets blown way out of proportion to say the least.

    • Steve Martin

      Another good one from Luther;

      “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)


    • SPP


      I find it almost shocking that there are any who want to argue with this post. You set out in a very clear way that we all act and believe according to the evidence, and what we may deem infallible is based on our fallible minds. For me, the evidence surely points to the 66 books as infallible. But even if one disagrees with this, your argument in this post holds true.

      Thanks for making my mind work overtime today.

    • Dr Michael

      Steve, how do we truly know the Word (Christ)? From the Bible. If the Bible can have errors, then how can we know there aren’t errors about Christ in there? Who gets to determine which parts are errors and which are not?

    • Dr Michael

      CMP, there is no need for probability arguments, as if we can not know for sure. This issue has been around since the Reformation, and was answered quite well in the Westminster catechism:

      “The Bible evidences itself to be God’s Word by the heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, and the power to convert sinners and to edify saints. But only the Spirit of God can make us willing to agree and submit to the bible as the Word of God.”

      Apocryphal books do not stand up to this test of self-authentication. Most of them have doctrinal and historical inconsistencies. Most of them do not claim for themselves the authority of God, like we see in the OT.

      Re-read Grudem chapter 3. The argument for the canon is not primarily based on probability or evidence.

    • Eric Gregory

      The premise of sola scriptura is that the Scriptures (as defined by the Protestant Reformation) are infallible, the word of God, and the only rule by which Christians ought to live.

      With any statement of fact (or of faith, really), one ought to be able to support it with evidence. Unfortunately, sola scriptura falls flat for the following reasons.

      1. Scholarship (for the past couple of hundred years) shows that there are historical inaccuracies in the Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments), and claims of “inerrancy” are usually genre mistakes (e.g., the idea that Genesis is an accurate historical account of the beginning of the world). The OT (and NT) also disagrees radically with itself (read Deut. and then Job, for example). For more, read any academic “Introduction to the OT/NT.”

      2. The Scriptures don’t make the claim themselves for inerrancy or dictation. Why should we force that on them?

      3. Scripture rises out of tradition that has apostolic lineage. Why are we comfortable throwing tradition out, but keeping its documents?

    • Dr Michael

      “The Scriptures don’t make the claim themselves for inerrancy or dictation. Why should we force that on them?”

      2 Pet. 1:20-21 – But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

      2 Tim. 3:16-17 – All Scripture given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

      John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

      Titus 1:2 – in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago

      Ps. 12:6 – The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

      Prov. 30:5 – Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

      Heb. 6:18 – it is impossible for God to lie

    • Dr Michael

      Eric, it’s really simple logic.

      1. All Scripture is breathed out by God, which is to say it’s God’s Word.
      2. God cannot lie.
      3. Therefore all Scripture is inerrant.

    • Eric Gregory


      2 Pet. 1:20-21 – This is a claim, actually, for reading the text faithfully in its own context. There’s nothing here about infallibility or a definition of what counts as “Scripture” here.

      2 Tim 3:16 – Again, about the OT. “God-breathed” does not equate to “has no historical errors.” The writers of these texts (especially ones like Genesis, Job, Ruth, etc.) weren’t attempting to write a factual account of history – they are parables, stories, metaphors, and mythic fictions that are incredibly engaging. If you don’t like that, how about this: Why can’t God make art? Why do we assume he’s a literalist?

      John 17:17 – Jesus isn’t talking about writings here, but himself as logos/word.

      Other examples – not about texts, but actual words/sayings of God

      It’s only simple logic if you accept, before reading those texts, that what you’re reading is Scripture, but where’s the rationale that you should? The logic of the WC is:

      1. Scripture is Scripture…

    • Mike

      All too often in protestant evangelism one is required to believe in a book before believing in Christ. That is the failure I see over and over again as the youth of our small Appalachian town reject Christ.

    • Dr Michael

      Eric, your logic doesn’t follow when you say “God-breathed” does not equate to “has no historical errors.” Can God breath out, or speak, error?

      Is it just Genesis, Job and Ruth that have errors? Which parts are error free? Who gets to decide?

      The logic is not “Scripture is Scripture”, but Scripture is the word of God because it says it is and the Holy spirit confirms it is in the heart of believers. There is no higher authority to judge Scripture. If there is a higher authority, we should look to it for salvation then.

      @Mike, how do you know Christ without the Bible, someone preaching/teaching from the Bible? If the Bible is required to know Christ (and it is, Rom. 10:14), how can we truly know Him if there are errors in that from which we learn of Him?

    • phantom

      I agree that the Bible has historical errors. I agree that it doesn’t claim to be infallible, whatever that means–most of it doesn’t even claim to be the “word of God,” aside from the parts where God is actually speaking. And clearly both our canon and, to some degree, our interpretation of scripture rests on the particular branch of tradition we follow. I also agree (in a philosophical sense) that certainty in anything is impossible.

      But, you seem to imply that you also reject the Bible’s accuracy as a guide to spiritual and moral matters. Since God has never appeared to me and given me a list of facts about himself, how am I supposed to know anything about him? I have to make the assumption that the Bible accurately teaches about God’s nature and God’s expectations for me. Do you really think the Bible is inconsistent in its treatment of these two matters? If so how are we to know God? Or do you not believe in objective truth?

    • Eric Gregory

      Dr. Mike:

      You have some very strange ideas about how to “prove” that the Bible (as a written documeny) is necessary for faith or salvation. Where do you get this idea? It can’t be from the NT because it wasn’t considered Scripture when it was written. Your Romans passage proves nothing other than that proclaiming the truth of Christ (the person, not a text) is necessary for Christians.

      In fact, your argument is that you think it is Scripture, so it is (that’s what “the Holy Spirit confirms it” actually means – anyone can claim, and have, that any number of other texts are Scripture that you might disagree with, but there’s no arbiter of truth here besides your opinion, or those of a bunch of dead guys – to put it crassly).

      Over and against any anachronistic claim for sola scriptura is the idea, from Scripture itself (1 Tim 3:15), that The Church, not any set of writings (however holy or God-breathed) – that is, the People of God not the Text of God – is the “pillar…

    • Damon

      Eric Gregory:

      “Again, about the OT. “God-breathed” does not equate to “has no historical errors.” The writers of these texts (especially ones like Genesis, Job, Ruth, etc.) weren’t attempting to write a factual account of history – they are parables, stories, metaphors, and mythic fictions that are incredibly engaging”

      Just curious–on what basis do you claim that Genesis et al were not factual accounts of history?

    • Dr Michael

      Eric, the doctrine of the necessity of Scripture may be strange to the world, but this is orthodox Christianity for two centuries. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. ” How do we know what the word of Christ is? The Holy Scriptures.

      It’s interesting that you use Scripture to prove Scripture can not be trusted by itself unless the Church says. According to you, Scripture is inerrant and fallible. So before we exegete 1 Tim. 3:15, we need to determine if it can be trusted as the Word of God. You’re saying Scripture can be trusted because the (fallible) Church says so. Why? Because the Scripture says so. Everyone relies on circular reasoning at the basis of their argument,even you.

    • Eric Gregory

      Just because something “has been” something people believe (and, it actually hasn’t been for that entire time), doesn’t mean that we should continue to believe it. For a long time people (including the Church) claimed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, and Genesis 1 (along with every other text that mentions God being in charge of the Sun) was used as proof against a heliocentric solar system. Science has shown otherwise and the Church must adapt.

      Again, we know the word of Christ via the Church. It so happens that some apostles (and others writing in the name of those apostles) wrote down their version of events such that we have books about them and can refer to their thoughts (which, when actually God’s thoughts, are always second-hand). 1 Tim 3:15 makes this pretty clear – the Church is the foundation of truth in the world, and it was to people, not to the written word, that Christ entrusted the keys to the kingdom of God.

      The Scriptures are because the Church is.

    • Eric Gregory

      Science and faith cannot be opposed to one another.

      God gave us reason, right? Reason leads us to science which has changed the way humans understand the world. Lots of opinions have been controversial (from heliocentrism to evolution), but they stick because there is reason to accept hypotheses based on experiential and empirical evidence. If we believe contrary to science because a book that was written well before the scientific method was proposed and never intended to suggest a scientific or historical understanding of Creation (based on its genre, which we can determine from other ancient near East [ANE] texts like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish – which make it clear, because of their later date, that the Creation stories in Geneses [there are at least 2] are from a common shared mythical tradition in the ANE), then we do the text itself a disservice and make ourselves fools. And not the holy kind.

    • Steve Martin

      Dr. Michael,

      Come now, do you really think that God is so small that He can’t overcome the imperfect work of men?

      He uses imperfect people, does He not?

      Even His own Son was FULLY human, while being FULLY God.

      The finite contains the infinite.

      So there are things that may not quite line up just so in the Bible. So what? The MESSAGE is still infallible. What part of the Bible is true? It is ALL true!

      Just as if a witness said the hit and run driver had a brown hat on, and later it was discovered he really had a blue hat on. So what? The hit and run actually occurred.

    • Eric Gregory

      Well said, Steve.

      Also, God meets people where they are. He didn’t give the Persians quantum physics, he allowed science to evolve at a human pace. Likewise, it’s absurd to assume, because we want Him to, that God would have given an accurate historical account of Creation to a group of people who, in their socio-historical location, were in conversation with creation myths of their large, influential, nearby neighbors like the Babylonians (re: Enuma Elish) and other Mesopotamians (re: Epic of Gilgamesh).

    • Dr Michael

      Eric and Steve, could you please give examples from Scripture? I still haven’t heard how you can determine which verses of the Bible has errors and which does not? Is it the Pope who decides this?

      Steve, God is so big he can overcome the imperfect work of men, but not big enough to make sure they get it perfect when they right His word? Faith comes fro hearing the word (Romans 10). If the Bible has errors, how can anyone be sure of their faith, which is dependent on God’s Word?

    • Eric Gregory

      Examples of contradiction:

      1. Genesis 1 vs. Genesis 2:4-7 – two different accounts about when man was created (first or last)

      2. 2 Samuel 24:1 vs. 1 Chronicles 21:1 – who incited David to sin, God or Satan?

      3. 1 Kings 9:23 vs. 2 Chronicles 8:10 – simple math error

      I’d strongly recommend reading the entirety of “An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible” by John J. Collins (http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Hebrew-Bible-John-Collins/dp/0800629914/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303957875&sr=8-1) for a fairly comprehensive overview of the entire Old Testament in terms of scholarship and very easy to understand concepts about the Bible in general.

      (It’s historical criticism, reason, and careful reading that determine most factual inaccuracies or intertextual contradictions.)

      Historical errors ought not to sway one from faith – God can write fiction, just like humans, for the sake of teaching a lesson. That’s what parables are, after all.

    • Steve Martin

      Dr. Michael,

      Genesis describes a flat earth. Is the earth flat?

      Who discovered the empty tomb first?

      When was the Holy Spirit given to the Church? At Pentecost, or in the upper room?

      Did Jesus go to Jerusalem early in His ministry or just at the end?

      I say it doesn’t matter. The message of the Bible is STILL TRUE and INFALLIBLE.

      The text dpes not have to be inerrant. It never had to be in the past.

      It is the Word that gives us assurance of our faith.

      What is the Word?

      It is Christ (firstly) then preaching about Christ (secondly) and then the Bible (thirdly).

      My assurance comes from God’s promises to me, made by His Spirit, in preaching, and from reading about those promises in Scripture. And, as a Lutheran, also in the visable Word of Baptism and Holy Communion.

    • Steve Martin

      If God was so hot on having a Bible with an inerrant text…don’t you think He would have made sure that the original manuscripts were preserved?

    • Steve Martin

      This is a pretty good class titled ‘Creating a Paper Pope’ by my pastor.

      It’s pretty interesting, whether you agree with everything, or not.



    • Dr Michael

      Steve, you’re still missing the point of the necessity of Scripture. The Holy Spirit does not work outside of Scripture on your heart, but through Scripture.

      Also, your list are more questions than contradictions. Which verse in Genesis says the earth is flat?

      If the original manuscripts were still around, most of the world would treat them as a good luck charm, walking by and dragging their purses across the huge case around them, like women do at the Catholic holy sites in Jerusalem. The same reason there is no Holy Ark or Noah’s Ark today, or a Tabernacle or even a Temple. God has His reasons for letting them be lost.

    • Steve Martin

      I never said that Scripture is NOT necessary.

      But if all the Bibles in the world were suddenly gone missing…would that put an end to Christian faith?

      St. Paul never had a New Testament.

      The Bible is great…but it is NOT GOD.

      You may ascribe to a Southern Baptist doctrine of the Word, but I will not.

    • Eric Gregory

      Dr. Michael:

      You’re starting from a perspective that understands writings of people about God to be somehow necessary (and not just “good” or “holy”) which is not supported by the texts themselves. That idea is supported by certain traditions, but then your argument flounders because the Scriptures are a product of tradition and must be seen in light of that tradition and not separate from it. Also, if you think the Holy Spirit does not work outside of Scripture, I worry about what your pneumatology looks like in general.

      My list wasn’t comprehensive, just what I could come up with briefly, and the questions serve to illustrate the inconsistencies in the stories. Instead of being upset with questions, try answering them. It’s not possible.

      The argument about Genesis (and other biblical books) is both flat-earth theory and geocentrism. Look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Controversy_over_heliocentrism. Also here: http://hypertextbook.com/eworld/geocentric.shtml

    • Dr Michael

      Eric, I claim the necessity of Scripture for salvation because Scripture itself claims that. (Again, see Romans 10 for support from the text!)

      Galileo’s issue was with the Roman Church at the time, not the Bible. I’m still not seeing your quote from Genesis that says the Earth is flat, but only wikipedia links talking about Galileo. And the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God for salvation. The gospel comes to us from His Word, the Bible. I’m not upset at questions. But questions are not contradictions. See the law of non-contradiction and you will (hopefully) understand that what you are bringing up do not fit into the category of contradictions.

      Since neither of you see the apparent contradictions in trying to base your faith on fallible man-made feelings and tradition, while claiming the Scriptures have error, I shall remain quite henceforth on this thread.

    • Eric Gregory

      The passage in Romans 10 supports evangelism, not believing that it itself (e.g., the New Testament or any book therein) is necessary for salvation. That’s a claim later made by tradition that doesn’t always take into account the origin of Scripture (e.g., within the tradition itself).

      Galileo’s issue was with the Church, yes, but the Church’s argument was from a literalist understanding of Scripture. When I link things, it’s so they’ll be read and conversation can proceed – both links discuss Scriptural arguments that were made against heliocentrism. Take a look.

      Science (because God gave us reason) progresses in its knowledge and demands of Christians that we take into account the truths it tells us with the truths we understand from Scripture. And science usually wins (as is evidenced by our current understanding that a heliocentric solar system is not contradictory of the Bible).

      There is a contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. Two separate accounts of man’s creation. Genesis 1 says that man was created last, after vegetation and after animals. Genesis 2:4-7 says that man was created before vegetation and before animals. Since both cannot be true, there exists a contradiction within the text itself.

    • […] a friend on Facebook linked an article that was an apparent refutation of an argument against the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. […]

    • Eric Gregory

      Please read my long response here: http://wearethestories.com/?p=695

    • Steve Martin

      “Since neither of you see the apparent contradictions in trying to base your faith on fallible man-made feelings and tradition, while claiming the Scriptures have error, I shall remain quite henceforth on this thread.”

      Dr. Michael,

      I think you have not rightly understood a single word I have said on the matter.

    • Ron

      Dr. Michael:

      The Holy Spirit does not work outside of Scripture on your heart, but through Scripture.

      The Bible says nothing of the sort. I suppose the Holy Spirit was bound and could do nothing before the first words of Scripture were penned (or written by the finger of God).

      The “word of Christ” in Romans 10 is a broader concept than just “the Bible.” And Romans 10:14 most assuredly does not teach that “the Bible is required to know Christ.” Where do you get this stuff?

    • steven wilgus

      Let us begin by establishing that in the translated versions of the bible, not 1 of them is infallible. Only in the original languages is sola scriptura valid. Thus, the individual is faced with the dilemma of what to believe. Thus we are forced to have a teacher, this teacher must be prepared in the original languages to interpret the bible. Therefore the apocrypha are absolutely not canon, they contain errors………

    • Arni Zachariassen

      If absolute certainty is overrated (as I take it you’re saying), why bother with inerrancy? You seem to be saying that you need Scripture to be absolutely certain, but you don’t have to feel absolutely certain about it being absolutely certain.

    • Phil

      Michael wrote: “The Catholics and Orthodox will normally refer to the establishment of these books as part of the canon by fourth century councils.”

      Derek wrote: “Their relative truth is based on the historical reality that an official church council decided which books were in and which where out (i.e. Hebrews vs the Didache).”

      To which early councils are you (either Michael and Derek) referring? I’m unaware of any early council (or even any council before Trent) that listed the books of the canon.

      Actually, the canon seems to have been arrived at more organically by general consensus; it was not determined either by a council or the declaration of a Pope or other individual.

    • Perry Robinson

      I think this is a bad argument. Here is why.
      First, certainty is not one of the conditions on knowledge. If one knows then they know regardless of certainty which is a psychological disposition. Besides, people have been certain in history about a number of things (geocentrism) and been dead wrong. They didn’t in fact know what they thought they knew.
      Certainty isn’t limited to the Enlightenment. Plato had a fair amount to write about it since he was an infallibilist about knowledge. And I am pretty sure Plato was not an Enlightenment philosopher.
      The issue isn’t certainty. Certainty is just the happy by product of receiving judgments from an ultimately normative or authoritative source. So the question is one of normativity, not epistemology. It is not if one can know such and so books are canonical, but whether the judgment that they are so is sufficiently normative to bind my conscience even if I fail to meet the conditions on knowledge (hence merely believe). For a…

    • Antoninus

      Wanted to discuss Deuterocanonicals a little. Maybe it’s irrelevant but 1. the Septuagint IS a Jewish Bible, and the deuterocanonicals form an integral part of it. 2. Luther took the Jewish Masoretic texts, chosen by the rabbis in a specific tradition after the fall of Jerusalem, as canon. It was not the only Jewish canon, just as the 2nd century Muratori canon did not include all of what we now call the New Testament. 3. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls were BOTH the Masoretic collection and the Septuagint collection, seemingly both used and honored. 4. the Jewish tradition distinguishes the Torah/Pentateuch from the Prophets (…”the Law and the Prophets” as Jesus spoke of them) from the historical books, so the books of the Macabees do NOT have the same authority as the Torah, and citing verses to make a doctrinal point is not valid. 5. .. just as The Book of Revelation/ or Apolcalypse does NOT have the authority of the Gospels, and is not “fact”. Sorry to be curt; no offense…

    • Antoninus

      All I meant to say was that when our understanding is ‘cast in stone’ we stop being open to the God who knows that we cannot understand everything, and even much of anthing, if we just do like certain imams, who memorize the Qur’an and then set themselves up as teachers. Each of us can absorb what we can absorb, and Lord help us if our understanding stays frozen at any time in our lives, as the Gospel is a living thing that grows in us as we, hopefully, grow in it, and begin to understand a little more as we search, err, search and learn. If we understand exactly the same at 65 as we did at 25, we cannot be good teachers, or, forgive me, good Christians. Life is a continuous lesson, unless we shut ourselves off and become rigid, which is when any preacher, or church, begins growing apart from Jesus’ message. I try to learn from my mistakes; I make them again, but realize God is trying to help me, and is open to my mistakes, and my falls, and doesn’t give up on me …

    • Ed Kratz

      Folks. Appreciate the interaction but read and follow the rules. One comment at a time. The 1000 word character limit is useless if u spam the post with comments. For extended reviews about a blog post please write ur own blog.

    • Antoninus

      … even if, as I grow old, I pay less and less attention to doctrine, & more and more attention to cleaning out all the lovelessness, ego, judgmentalism, & suspicions I have stubbornly held on to for too many years. (You can see from my first comment that I still have a long way to go).
      Jesus taught us that Love is the answer … to all questions. If we learn that lesson, we’ve got it made. All the walls our denominations have built up, based on minor doctrinal distinctions, can become obstacles to love, and to a fuller openness to God’s grace. I have learned so much from Christians of other denominations and religions to help me on my journey. because we are all on that journey, & are meant to help each other grow in God’s love. I admit the use of argument as a good, unless it drives a wedge between those who believe differently.
      Pardon me my wordiness, and my lack of sophistication. I’m just seeing myself in you, and hoping we’ll all hold hands as we journey toward our…

    • Antoninus

      Sorry, Dr. Michael. Didn’t see the message. Won’t do it again (still learning, and failing)

    • Eilat Hotels

      I merely planned to toss a huge thank you you cleared up a good deal of items personally!

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