A while back, I wrote a short series on the Five Solas of the Reformation. The first of the Five Solas is “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone). In a nutshell, Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is God's sole written revelation and it is the final authority on all things relating to doctrine. A visitor to my blog, someone posting under the name, teak421, took exception to my points and left two comments to rebut. I visited his blog and read some of his links and it he seems to advocate two other sources of revelation: apostolic successors and the Church (namely the Catholic Church). As is sometimes my practice, I've decided to use his comments as an opportunity to elaborate out my previous post.
First, let me point out an amusing irony. To teak421's credit, he cited a few verses to bolster his argument but how ironic it is to attempt to use the Bible as evidence that the Bible is not the final authority on doctrine! If the apostles are the final authority on doctrine, then why doesn't he cite them? But let's look at those passages he mentioned:
One verse he cited is Ephesians 2:19-22 which says the house of God is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Of course this passage is true but in what sense was this building accomplished? I believe the answer is obvious: God used the prophets (of the OT) and the apostles (of the NT) to speak His words before there was a written revelation (see my post here). It is a great error to make the apostles more than what they are. Consider what the apostles said about themselves.
In 1 Corinthians 1:12-14, Paul says, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Paul is clear to point out that his teaching is not ultimately his own but rather is Christ's – it's Christ's crucifixion, His death, His baptism, His resurrection, His everything. It's not about Paul or the apostles; it's about Christ's work and teachings. And only a few verses later (v.19), we see another interesting practice employed by Paul where he cites Scripture to back up what he is saying. Which brings me to Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Luke commends the noble Bereans for comparing Paul's teaching with Scripture to judge if what he says is true. The clear implication is that Scripture trumps the apostles!
Peter also recognized that no one but Christ had the words of life. He stated such overtly in John 6:68. When Jesus asked the apostles if they too would leave Him, Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” So I ask, who has the words of life – the apostles or Jesus?
But regardless of the role of the apostles, I have blogged before that I do not believe there are any more apostles. God has given us the cannon of Scripture and there is no more revelation. If anyone claims to have revelation from God that contradicts Scripture, he is a false prophet. Scripture is the final authority.
Now, to teak421's second point: the Catholic church. The claim of the Church is that there is an apostolic succession within the Church beginning with Peter as the first pope. I immediately disqualify that claim based on my arguments above. However, there are still the traditions of the Church that are supposed to have begun from the time of the apostles. Do these traditions carry equal weight with the Bible? The answer is a simple no. Jesus Himself rejected such an idea. I refer you to Matthew 15:3-6 where Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”
I'm not sure how much more clear this could be. Jesus told the Pharisees that when traditions conflict with the written word of God, the Scriptures win.
In his comments, teak421 said, “Who decides who is right? You? Me? or a guy name Steve?” I would say, “Who, indeed! Me, teak421, the pope, the Catholic Church, or the Bible?” I still say the Bible.