03 January, 2011

Sola Scriptura Takes It On the Chin

Freedom Through Truth: Sola Scriptura Takes It On the Chin


  1. Jim Stevenson04 January, 2011

    A very good and thoughtful article. I am one protestant who has never believed in Sola Scriptura; and believe firmly in the equally important role of sacred tradition and church councils. I often wonder why people do not take John 16.12-13 more seriously:‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." It seems to me Jesus is talking precisely about the things which will be revealed later to the Church. Finally a question: the author of the article says the role of sacred tradition in revelation is not the most serious division between protestants and catholics, but he does not identify what that most serious thing is. I wonder what he meant or what you believe is the most serious division between Protestants and Catholics.

  2. Great Comment Jim.

    As the writer of the wrap around article that surrounded the work of Dave Armstrong that I quoted, I wanted to respond to your comment.

    Picking up on John 16: 12-13 is a good one, and I concur with your notes. It is a beautiful and meaningful piece of scripture, particularly in this context.

    I have been deeply troubled by the division in the Body of Christ. Surely, it cannot be what Our Saviour wants of us.

    Sola scriptura is definitely a stumbling point, but the BIG one I referred to is the Eucharist. The Catholic Church takes seriously the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it "the source and summit of the Christian life". These are heady words, and difficult to swallow for many, and apparently up to 50% of Catholics do not even believe in it, essentially making them unCatholic.

    If we believe that the Eucharist is the re-presentation of the Crucifixion of Jesus, then we as Christians must run to the Eucharist and the Catholic Church.

    If not, then in good conscience we must run away from the Catholic Church.

    But, that belief is essential to unity with Catholics.

    God Bless You

    Michael Brandon

  3. Further to Jim's comment, there are also scriptural references against further or "additional" traditions or revelations. Paul in Galatians warns about even if an angel appears with another message, be very careful. The last words in Revelation also warn about "adding" or "taking" away from scripture.

    So you see it isn't that easily reconciled. Sola Scripture definitely has a purpose and is a fortress to protect against error.


  4. I read through the article but was not convinced. Fortunately, I have the Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge who goes into the subject in some depth. In reading it I find it is not as simple as some would make it seem.
    I will quote some of it.

    "The Real Question
    The real status quaestionis, on this subject, as between Romanists and Protestants, is not (1) Whether the Spirit of God leads true believers into the knowledge of the truth; nor (2) whether true Christians agree in all essential matters as to truth and duty; nor (3) whether any man can safely or innocently dissent from this common faith of the people of God; but (4) whether apart from the revelation contained in the Bible, there is another supplementary and explanatory revelation, which has been handed down outside of the Scriptures, by tradition. In other words whether there are doctrines, institutions, and ordinances, having no warrant in the Scriptures, which we as Christians are bound to receive and obey on the authority of what is called common consent. This Romanists affirm and Protestants deny.

    to be con'd

  5. "Arguments against the Doctrine of Tradition.

    The heads of the argument against the Romish doctrine on this subject are the following:-
    1. It involves a natural impossibility. It is of course conceded that Christ and his Apostles said and did much that is not recorded in the Scriptures; and it is further admitted that if we had any certain knowledge of such unrecorded instructions, they would be of equal authority with what is written in the Scriptures. But Protestants maintain that they were not intended to consitute a part of the permanent rule of faith to the Church. They were designed for the men of that generation. The showers which fell a thousand years ago, watered the earth and rendered it fruitful for men then living. They cannot now be gathered up and made available for us. They did not constitute a reservoir for the supply of future generations. In like manner the unrecorded teachings of Christ and his Apostles did their work. They were not designed for our instruction.

    It is impossible to learn what they were, as it is to gather up the leaves which adorned and enriched the earth when Christ walked in the garden of Gethsemane. This impossibility arises out of the limitations of our nature, as well as its corruption consequent on the fall. Man has not the clearness of perception, the retentiveness of memory, or the power of presentation, to enable him (without supernatural aid) to give a trustworthy account of a discourse once heard, a few years or even months after its delivery."


  6. "And that this should be done over and over from month to month for thousands of years, is an impossibility. If to this be added the difficulty in the way of this oral transmission, arising from the blindness of men to the things of the Spirit, which prevents their understanding what they hear, and from the disposition to pervert and misrepresent the truth to suit their own prejudices and purposes, it must be acknowledged that tradition cannot be a reliable source of knowledge of religious truth. This is universally acknowledged and acted upon, except by Romanists. No one pretends to determine what Luther and Calvin, Latimer and Cranmer, taught, except from contemporaneous written records. Much less will any sane man pretend to know what Moses and the prophets taught except from their own writings.


  7. "Romanists admit the force of this objection. They admit that tradition would not be a trustworthy informant of what Christ and the Apostles taught, without the supernatural intervention of God. Tradition is to be trusted not because it comes down through the hands of fallible men, but because it comes through an infallibly guided Church. This, however, is giving up the question. It is merging the authority of tradition into the authority of the Church. There is no need of the former, if the latter be admitted. Romanists, however, keep these two things distinct. They say that if the Gospels had never been written, they would know by historical tradition the facts of Christ's life; and that is his discourses and the epistles of the Apostles had never been gathered up and recorded, they would by the same means know the truths which they contain. They admit, however, that this could not be without a special divine intervention."

    The nexts parts will be:
    2. No Promise of Divine Intervention
    3. No Criterion
    (there is no criterion as to what is true and what is false)
    Next section is called Common Consent not a Criterion.
    Then Inadequacy of the Evidences of Consent,
    Tradition not available by the People, Tradition Destroys the Authority of the Scriptures, and The Scriptures not received on the Authority of Tradition.
    The next big subject is "Infallibility of the Church".
    There is much food for thought in these pages.

  8. I will try to summarize some of this.

    No Promise of Divine Intervention

    It is unphilosophical and irreligious to assume a supernatural intervention on the part of God, without promise and without proof.

    Our Lord promised to preserve His Church from fatal apostasy. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to abide with His people and to teach them.

    But these promises were not made to an external, visible organization of professing Christians. Nor do these promises imply the Church shall be preserved from all error in faith and practice. Much less do these promises imply that instructions not recorded in Scripture shall be transmitted from generation to generation. There is no such promise in the Word of God. Any such preservation without divine intervention would be impossible. Therefore tradition cannot be a trustworthy guide of what Christ taught.

  9. The third argument against Tradition is called NO Criterion.

    "Romanists admit there are many false traditions that have prevailed in different ages and in different part of the Church. Those who receive them are confident in their genuineness and zealous in their support."

    But how does one draw a line between the true and the false? By what criterion can one distinguish the true tradition from the false?
    Protestants say there is no criterion and therefore if tradition is admitted, the Church is exposed to a flood of superstition and error.
    Romanists however claim the sure criterion is antiquity and universality. They have formulated their own rule which is called Common Consent.

    Common Consent not a Criterion.

    Protestants reply to this. First, they admit the autority of common consent among true Christians as to what is taught in the Scriptures. But this consent is of authority only if:
    (a) So far as it is the consent of true believers.
    (b) So far as it concerns the meaning of the written Word of God.
    (c) So far as it is related to the practical, experimental, or essential doctrines of Christianity.

    Such consent outside the Bible or even supposed to be in the Bible, if they do not concern the foundation of the faith, is of no weight.

    The whole christian world at one time believed that the Sun revolved around the earth. Nobody now believes that.

    Common consent cannot be pleaded except within very narrow limits. The Romanist arguement is that they are the only Christians; therefore, they are the ones who receive the doctrines on the authority of Tradition. They claim therefore that all Christians within the Roman Church consent to the doctrines so the common consent of all christians may be claimed in favour of their doctrines.

    Thirdly, claiming that the Roman Church unanimously holds certain doctrines is proof that it has always held them. However, there is no proof that they have always held them. Simply claiming something does not prove it is true. It is a historical fact that the peculiar doctrines of Rome were not received in the early Church as matters of faith. Such doctrines as the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, the perpetuity of the Apostleship, the grace of orders; transubstantiation, the power of priests to forgive sins, the propitiatory sacrifice of the Mass, the seven sacraments, purgatory; the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, etc. all all be historically traced to their origin, gradual development, and final adoption. It would be wrong to assume that because the Church believes certain doctrines today, 1900 years after the Apostles, that such was the faith in the first centuries.

    It is a fact that Arianism prevailed for years; that it received the sanction of a great majority of bishops, of provincial and ecumenical councils, and of the Bishop of Rome.

    It is also a fact that the Latin Church embraced Augustinianism, including all the unique doctrines of Calvinism, and that it was declared to be the true faith by council after council, and by bishops and popes. Soon however, Augustinianism lost it's ascendency. For seven or eight centures no one doctrine prevailed in the Roman Church. The various doctrines were in constant conflict. It wasn't until the 16th century that the Council of Trent, after long conflict within itself, gave it's santion to a modified form of semi-Pelagianism.

    The claim of Common Consent by Romanists is therefore contrary to history. It is inconsistent with undeniable facts. This is admitted by Romanists themselves. Their particular faith is not traceable back earlier than the fifth century. This admission of the lack of common consent is somewhat covered by the claim to the authority of the Church.

    The argument goes like this. The Church believes on the ground of common consent. The proof that something has always been a matter of common consent is that the Church now believes it."

    From Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology., 3 volume set.

  10. "Inadequacy of the Evidences of Consent.

    The second objection to the argument of Romanists from common consent in support of their traditions, is, that the evidence which they adduce of such consent is altogether inadequate. The appeal to ancient creeds. But there was no creed generally adopted before the fourth century. No creed adopted before the eighth century contains any of the doctrines peculiar to the Church of Rome. Protestants all receive the doctrinal statements contained in what is called the Apostles' creed, and in those of Chalcedon, and of Constantinople, adopted A.D. 681.

    They appeal also the decisions of councils. To this the same reply is made. There were no general councils before the fourth century. The first six ecumenical councils gave no doctrinal decisions from which Protestants dissent. They, therefore, present no evidence of consent in those doctrines which are now peculiar to the Church of Rome.

    They appeal again to the writings of the fathers. But to this Protestants object,-
    First. That the writings of the apostolic fathers are too few to be taken as trustworthy representatives of the state of opinion in the Church for the first three hundred years. Ten or twenty writers scattered over such a period cannot reasonably be assumed to speak the mind of the whole Church.
    Secondly. The consent of these fathers, or of the half of them, cannot be adduced in favour of any doctrine in controversy between Protestants and Romanists.
    Thirdly. Almost unanimous consent can be quoted in support of doctrines which Romanists and Protestants unite in rejecting.

    Fourthly. The consent of the fathers cannot be proved in support of doctrines which Protestants and Romanists agree in accepting. Not that these doctrines did not then enter into the faith of the Church, but simply that they were not presented.

    Fifthly. Such is the diversity of opinion among the fathers themselves, such the vagueness of their doctrinal statements, and such the unsettled usus loguendi as to important words, that the authority of the fathers may be quoted on either side of any disputed doctrine. There is no view, for example, of the nature of the Lord's supper, which has ever been held in the Church, for which the authority of some early father cannot be adduced. And often the same father presents one view at one time, and another at a different time."


  11. "Sixthly. The writings of the fathers have been notoriously corrupted. It was a matter of great complaint in the early church that spurious works were circulated; and that genuine works were recklessly interpolated. Some of the most important works of the Greek fathers are extant only in a Latin translation. This is the case with the greater part of the works of Irenaeus, translated by Rufinus, whom Jerome charges with the most shameless adulteration.

    Another objection to the argument from consent is, that it is a Procrustean bed which may be extended or shortened at pleasure. In every Catena Patrum prepared to prove this consent in certain doctrines, it will be found that two or more writers in a century are cited as evincing the unanimous opinion of that century, while double or fourfold the number, on the other side, are passed over in silence. There is no rule to guide in the application of this test, and no uniformity in the manner of its use."

  12. Wayne,

    I had a hunch you'd be writing a small novel on this topic.


  13. There is one thing that is quite evident amongst all our disagreements, and that is we need to strengthen, clarify and unify the Christian position.

    The Church, both Protestant and Catholic is under siege by the enemy. We cannot let our emotions run rampant and abandon reason. We need to remember there are faithful, dedicated, sanctified believers in every tradition. Respect and understanding of each other must be priority. After all it is "love" that will prevail. 1 cor 13.


  14. Paul,

    Yes, I have more to add and I haven't even begun to post some info on Church authority, which is basically what it all hinges on.

  15. Paul,

    The subject connected is not the authority of the Church but rather the "infallibility of the Church" and the difference between Protestant and Romanist theory of the Church. Have been down with a cold the last couple of days and not feeling that great. Will try to get going here shortly.

  16. Cliff: You are ABSOLUTELY correct! Instead of fighting amongst ourselves over who better understands the details of his covenant of salvation, is it not easy to see that our Father would want that we present the enemy with the strength of our common belief.

    I keep saying over and over that the 'house is on fire', and it is time to put aside our squabbles and work together to address the challenges that confront the voice of faith today.

    Christians are all children of the covenant of the cross and the waters of baptism. We all profess our faith in Christ as Messiah and Lord. We call claim salvation in his name, and his name alone. This is our strength... a strength that's weakened by internal conflict and bickering among those who choose to participate in this extended offer of our eternal Father, God and Lord of all.

    Wolves try to cleave members away from the protection of the herd to kill them off one by one. It makes NO SENSE to be throwing members out of the Christian pack because we question the purity of their doctrine.

    Fr. Tim

  17. Wayne:

    I hope you are enjoying yourself, because I don't think anyone is reading your stuff anymore.


    I agree with you totally about the need to strengthen our faith and love of Jesus Christ (my interpretation of your words).

    When we arrive in heaven, God willing, we can discuss doctrine with the author, and maybe then we will get it right.

    That said, God is calling us to be one. To be one, we must understand the differences, and not do as Wayne is doing and try to beat everybody over the head with a position.

    I know his position on sola scriptura. To him it is gold. You also wrote in favour of it.

    I respectfully disagree. I believe that it is an untenable position, with no foundation in the Church history, and certainly not the bible, if you read the whole book, and are not selective in what you read. But, that is my opinion, and one that I can support biblically, just as you can support your position biblically.

    However, I believe that those, like you and Wayne who believe it, do so with the best of intentions to serve Jesus Christ.

    The Catholic Church will never support sola scriptura, but the Catholic Church will never support a dogma that is inconsistent with the Bible either.

    Still, Jesus calls us all to be One, as He and the Father are One.

    So, what choices do we have? We can persecute each other for not getting it right, and believe that we have the whole truth and nothing but, and the rest of you are wrong.

    That is Wayne's approach, and it does not seem to be working.

    Or, maybe we can dialogue about things, and not get our backs up because someone disagrees with us.

  18. "While, therefore, it is admitted that there has been a stream of doctrine flowing down uninterruptedly from the days of the Apsotles, it is denied, as a matter of fact, that there has been any uninterrupted or general consent in any doctrine not clearly revealed in the Sacred Scriptures; and not even in reference to such clearly revealed doctrines, beyond the narrow limits of essential truths.

    And it is, moreover, denied that in any external, visible, organized Church, can the rule, quod semper, quod ab amnibus, be applied even to essential doctrines. The argument, therefore, of Romanists in favour of their peculiar doctrines, derived fromm general consent, is utterly untenable and fallacious.
    This is vertually admitted by the most zealous advocates of tradition. "Not only," says Professor Newman, "is the Church Catholic bound to teach the truth, but she is divinely guided to teach it; her witness of the Christian faith is a matter of promise as well as of duty; her discernment of it is secured by a heavenly, as well as by a human rule. She is indefectible in it; and therefore has not only authority to enforce it, but is of authority in declaring it. The Church not only transmits the faith by human means, but has a supernatural gift for that purpose; that doctrine which is true, considered as an historical fact, is true also because she teaches it." The author of the Oxford Tract, No. 85, after saying, "We believe mainly because the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries unanimously believed," adds, "Why should not the Church be divine? The burden of proof surely is on the other side. I will accept her doctrines, and her rites, and her Bible -- not one, and not the other, but all, -- till I have clear proof that she is mistaken. It is I feel God's will that I should do so; and besides, I love these her possessions--I love her Bible, her doctrines, and her rites; and therefore, I believe."

    The Romanist then believes because the Church believes. This is the ultimate reason. The Church believes, not because she can historically prove that her doctrines have been received from the Apostles, but because she is supernaturally guided to know the truth. "Common consent," therefore, is practically abandoned, and tradition resolves itself into the present faith of the Church.

    --from Charles Hodge's book Systematic Theology

  19. "Tradition not available by the People"

    4. Protestants object to tradition as part of the rule of faith, because it is not adapted to that purpose. A rule of faith to the people must be something which they can apply; a standard by which they can judge. But this unwritten revelation is not contained in any one volume accessible to the people, and intelligible by them. It is scattered through the ecclesiastical records of eighteen centuries. It is absolutely impossible for the people to learn what it teaches. How can they tell whether the Church in all ages has taught the doctrine of transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, or any other popish doctrine. They must take all such doctrines upon trust, i.e., on the faith of the extant Church. But this is to deny that to them tradition is a rule of faith. They are required to believe, on the peril of their souls, doctrines, the pretended evidence of which it is impossible for them to ascertain or appreciate.

    5. Romanists argue that such is the sbscurity of the Scriptures, that not only the people, but the Church itself needs the aid of tradition in order to their being properly understood. But if the Bible, a comparatively plain book, in one portable volume, needs to be thus explained, What is to explain the hundreds of folios in which these traditions are recorded? Surely a guide to the interpretation of the latter must be far more needed than one for the Scriptures."

    -Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology

  20. MBrandon, thanks for your thoughtful response, I think maybe we are gaining a little ground in the respect area?

    I totally concur that we need to be one, or unified, however that presents a conundrum that perhaps we cannot resolve on earth. This unity may need to take on an imperceptible form. While you say the Catholic Church will never accept "Sola Scriptura", I believe Protestants will never, or perhaps with great difficulty accept the infallibility of the Pope. This is indeed a challenge that without the Grace of God will never be solved.

    Jesus Christ is Lord.


  21. Charles Hodge goes on to say:
    "Tradition destroys the Authority of the Scriptures.

    6. Making tradition a part of the rule of faith subverts the authority of the Scriptures. This follows as a natural and unavoidable consequence. If there be two standards of doctrine of equal authority, the one the explanatory, and infallible interpreter of the other, it is of necessity the interpretation which determines the faith of the people.

    Instead, therefore, of our faith resting on the testimony of God as recorded in his Word, it rests on what poor, fallible, often fanciful, prejudiced, benighted men, tell us is the meaning of that word. Man and his authority take the place of God. As this is the logical consequence of making tradition a rule of faith, so it is an historical fact that the Scriptures have been made of no account whereever the authority of tradition has been admitted. Our Lord said, that the Scribes and Pharisees made the word of God of no effect by their traditions; that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men. This is no less historically true of the Church of Rome. A great mass of doctrines, rites, ordinacnes, and institutions, of which the Scriptures know nothing, has been imposed on the reason, conscience, and life of the people.

    The Roman Catholic religion of our day, with its hierarchy, ritual, image and saint worship; with its absolutions, indulgences, and its despotic power over the conscience and life of the individual, is as little like the religion of the New Testament, as the present religion of the Hindus with its myriad of deities, its cruelties, and abominations, is like the simple religion of their ancient Vedas. In both cases similar causses have produced similar effects. In both there has been a provision for giving divine authority to the rapidly accumulating errors and corruptions of succeeding ages."

  22. "The Church, both Protestant and Catholic is under siege by the enemy."

    Oh? And whom do you see as the "enemy," Cliff? And why?

  23. Lady Janus, the theological answer of course is the "Adversary", and we all know he wants to destroy the church.


  24. Cliff, I did not ask for theology. I asked you whom YOU thought was the "enemy." And why.

    And before you go speaking for what "we all" know, hadn't you better ask us?

  25. "The Scriptures not received on the Authority of Tradition.

    8. Romanists argue that Protestants concede the authority of tradition, because it is on that authority they receive the New Testament as the word of God. This is not correct. We do not believe the New Testament to be divine on the ground of the testimony of the Church. We receive the books included in the canonical Scriptures on the twofold ground of internal and external evidence. It can be historically proved that those books were written by the men whose names they bear; and it can also be proved that those men were the duly authenticated organs of the Holy Ghost. The historical evidence which determines the authorship of the New Testament is not exclusively that of the Christian fathers. The testimony of heathen writers is, in some respects, of greater weight than that of the fathers themselves. We may believe on the testimony of English history, ecclesiastical and secular, that the Thirty-Nine Articles were framed by the English Reformers, without being traditionists. In like manner we may believe that the books of the New Testament were written by the men whose names they bear without admitting tradition to be a part of the rule of faith.

    Besides, external evidence of any kind is a very subordinate part of the ground of a Protestant’s faith in the Scripture. That ground is principally the nature of the doctrines therein revealed, and the witness of the Spirit, with and by the truth, to the heart and conscience. We believe the Scriptures for much the same reason that we believe the Decalogue.

    The Church is bound to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made it free, and not to be again entangled with the yoke of bondage, — a bondage not only to human doctrines and institutions, but to soul-destroying errors and superstitions."

    Charles Hodge's book Systematic Theology
    Also may be read online for free at:

  26. Michael did quote a few parts of the RC catechism on here which demonstrate the confusion that exists around the central doctrine of Justification.

    Charles Hodge says this:

    "The Bible, although so clear and simple in its teaching, that he who runs may read and learn enough to secure his salvation, is still full of the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God; the profoundest truths concerning all the great problems which have taxed the intellect of man from the beginning. These truths are not systematically stated, but scattered, so to speak, promiscuously over the sacred pages, just as the facts of science are scattered over the face of nature, or hidden in its depths. Every man knows that there is unspeakably more in the Bible than he has yet learned, as every man of science knows that there is unspeakably more in nature than he has yet discovered, or understands. It stands to reason that such a book, being the subject of devout and laborious study, century after century, by able and faithful men, should come to be better and better understood. And as in matters of science, although one false theory after another, founded on wrong principles or on an imperfect induction of facts, has passed away, yet real progress is made, and the ground once gained is never lost, so we should naturally expect it to be with the study of the Bible. False views, false inferences, misapprehensions, ignoring of some facts, and misinterpretations, might be expected to come and go, in endless succession, but nevertheless a steady progress in the knowledge of what the Bible teaches be accomplished. And we might also expect that here, too, the ground once surely gained would not again be lost."

  27. "But, in the second place, what is thus natural and reasonable in itself is a patent historical fact. The Church has thus advanced in theological knowledge. The difference between the confused and discordant representations of the early fathers on all subjects
    connected with the doctrines of the Trinity and of the person of Christ, and the clearness, precision, and consistency of the views presented after ages of discussion, and the statement of these doctrines by the Councils of Chalcedon and Constantinople, is as great almost as between chaos and cosmos. And this ground has never been lost. The same is true with regard to the doctrines of sin and grace. Before the long-continued discussion of these subjects in the Augustinian period, the greatest confusion and contradiction prevailed in the teachings of the leaders of the Church; during those discussions the views of the Church became clear and settled. There is scarcely a principle or doctrine concerning the fall of man, the nature of sin and guilt, inability, the necessity of the Spirits influence, etc., etc., which now enters into the faith of evangelical Christians, which was not then clearly stated and authoritatively sanctioned by the Church. In like manner, before the Reformation, similar confusion existed with regard to the great doctrine of justification. No clear line of discrimination was drawn between it and sanctification. Indeed, during the Middle Ages, and among the most devout of the schoolmen, the idea of guilt was merged in the general idea of sin, and sin regarded as merely moral defilement. The great object was to secure holiness. Then pardon would come of course. The apostolic, Pauline, deeply Scriptural doctrine, that there can be no holiness until sin be expiated, that pardon, justification, and reconciliation, must precede sanctification, was never clearly apprehended. This was the grand lesson which the Church learned at the Reformation, and which it has never since forgot. It is true then, as an historical fact, that the Church has advanced. It understands the great doctrines of theology, anthropology, and soteriology, far better now, than they were understood in the early post-apostolic age of the Church."

  28. I once met a Catholic who said his answer to any questions about the RCC was that the priest takes care of it all for him; he doesn't worry about any of it. That pretty well sums it up and is expanded on in the following paragraphs written by Charles Hodge (who incidentally lived in the 1800s).

    "§ 7. Office of the Church as a Teacher.

    A. The Romish Doctrine on this subject.

    Romanists teach that the Church, as an external, visible society, consisting of those who profess the Christian religion, united in communion of the same sacraments and subjection to lawful pastors,
    130and especially to the Pope of Rome, is divinely appointed to be the infallible teacher of men in all things pertaining to faith and practice. It is qualified for this office by the plenary revelation of the truth in the written and unwritten word of God, and by the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit vouchsafed to the bishops as official successors of the Apostles, or, to the Pope as the successor of Peter in his supremacy over the whole Church, and as vicar of Christ on earth.

    There is something simple and grand in this theory. It is wonderfully adapted to the tastes and wants of men. It relieves them of personal responsibility. Everything is decided for them. Their salvation is secured by merely submitting to be saved by an infallible, sin-pardoning, and grace-imparting Church. Many may be inclined to think that it would have been a great blessing had Christ left on earth a visible representative of himself clothed with his authority to teach and govern, and an order of men dispersed through the world endowed with the gifts of the original Apostles, — men everywhere accessible, to whom we could resort in all times of difficulty and doubt, and whose decisions could be safely received as the decisions of Christ himself. God’s thoughts, however, are not as our thoughts. We know that when Christ was on earth, men did not believe or obey Him. We know that when the Apostles were still living, and their authority was still confirmed by signs, and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Church was nevertheless distracted by heresies and schisms. If any in their sluggishness are disposed to think that a perpetual body of infallible teachers would be a blessing, all must admit that the assumption of infallibility by the ignorant, the erring, and the wicked must be an evil inconceivably great. The Romish theory if true might be a blessing; if false it must be an awful curse. That it is false may be demonstrated to the satisfaction of all who do not wish it to be true, and who, unlike the Oxford Tractarian, are not determined to believe it because they love it."


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