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Scripture Alone, Sorta

The term “Sola Scriptura” means “Scripture alone” (or “Bible alone”) and it is a stance adopted by some protestants. Some trace this term to the protestants themselves. Others trace it to catholics who use it to criticize this protestant position. In either case, it is an accepted term of convenience.

To examine this stance, both “Scripture” and “alone” admittedly needs to be defined. But it is not a simple matter as it may seem, and will make this article unbearably long for some. Also, for the purposes of this simple article, it is not necessary anyway.

St Paul the Apostle
St Paul the Apostle, 14th-century icon

The meaning of “Scripture alone” varies from one protestant group to another, and may even vary among individuals within a group. On the extreme end, and not all protestants adopt this, “Scripture alone” means something like only teachings found in Scripture are acceptable. So, in this case, Scripture has sole authority. For others, Scripture has supreme authority but not necessarily sole authority. Therefore, tradition is not necessarily rejected. It’s just that Scripture ranks the highest.

Both catholics and protestants consider Scripture to be “inspired” and, in that sense, has intrinsic authoritative value as a primogenial source of information. It follows that no teaching should contradict Scripture. In this, there is generally no argument.

However, to adopt Scripture as the sole authority or even supreme (but not necessarily sole) authority is problematic. Where in Scripture is it stated, explicitly or implicitly, that it has said authority?

Nowhere. The concept of “Scripture alone” is external to Scripture, and is therefore a logical self-contradiction.

As if that is not enough, and there are other considerations, below is merely one quote from one of Apostle St Paul’s epistles.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.

– 2 Thessalonians 2:14 (Douay Rheims)

The translation can vary. Sometimes, the word “teachings” is used instead of “traditions”. Either way, the point is that the important stuff you learn and should hold onto doesn’t have to be in writing.

So Scripture is very important and let’s quote Scripture… until we come across a verse we don’t like and then we’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist. Right.


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