By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM
According to Sacred Scripture itself, the Bible is not, and was never meant to be, the only source of divine Revelation and sole rule of faith. Jesus neither wrote anything Himself nor commanded anybody to write. On the contrary, He commanded the apostles to preach, viva voce. He commanded the apostles to preach to all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them, and He promised to be with them to the end of time (Matt. 28:18-20).
The apostles died without having preached to all nations. To fulfill Jesus’ commandment to preach to all of them, they entrusted their mission to other apostles such as Matthias, Paul, and Barnabas: It was the beginning of the Apostolic Succession — which lasts to this day.
Everything that Jesus said and did was not consigned to writing, but only a comparatively small part of it (John 20:30). If they were to be all written, they would make a huge library (John 21:25).
Jesus established a Church with a Magisterium, that is, a teaching Church, not a Bible-printing society. He founded a visible Church, with authority to guide, teach, and sanctify the people, a congregation sharing united in one Lord, one faith, one Baptism (Eph. 4:5), under the same government, being taught the same truths, obeying the same commandments, being sanctified by the same sacraments — the Church of God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth.
He did not found many churches, leaving it to people to decide which denomination they should belong to, regardless of its different and often contradictory creed and practices, based upon their subjective interpretation of the Bible.
Therefore, unity in faith, morals, and government was the characteristic of the early Church — not Sola Scriptura. The pillar and the mainstay of the Truth are the Church — not the Bible alone, according to St. Paul (1 Tim. 3:15). Jesus founded the Church, and the Church wrote the New Testament. He founded His Church with a structure of authority, His apostles, with one of them at the Head.
He never, ever, asked the people to accept Him in their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior and gave them the Bible to interpret as they understood it, and no amount of Protestant denial of it will ever change this reality.
Sola Scriptura is a precept of men, invented in the 16th century, which denied the apostolic mission to guide, teach, and sanctify the people. Luther created confusion, error, and heresy in a relativistic and individualistic concept of religion, which made void the word of God as taught by the apostolic Tradition, both written (the New Testament) and orally transmitted (apostolic Tradition).
A typical example of the apostolic Tradition is the teaching on the Holy Trinity: Nowhere in the Bible will you find it written that there are three persons in God — and this is a crucially essential Christian truth, in which all Protestants believe. The Council of Nicaea, upon defending the divinity of Christ against the Aryan heresy, defined the Trinity. It is a Catholic belief, brought to us by the apostolic Tradition and expounded by the Magisterium in AD 325 — 1,158 years prior to Luther’s birth. . . .
Sola Scriptura is wrong also because of several reasons:
1) It produced a cacophony of contradictory doctrines, creeds, sects, and denominations, where everyone, Bible in hand, defends his own interpretations and claims it to be true.
2) It is wrong because it is unscriptural — nowhere in the Bible is it stated that one must follow the Bible alone. On the contrary, the Bible teaches about the Church. If Jesus and the apostles had intended that Christians should have the Bible as their sole guide and interpret it as they saw fit, surely He would have mentioned it somewhere in the Bible.
3) It is unhistorical, because nobody ever taught this doctrine until Luther. No early Christian ever believed in Sola Scriptura until he came up with the novelty, nearly 1,400 years after the Church was founded on Pentecost Day — much too late.
4) It is unworkable: Since widespread literacy is a comparatively recent phenomenon, for too many centuries illiterate people would have been deprived of the word of God simply because they could not read! If they heard preaching, it was no longer Scriptura: It was oral tradition.
5) It is unreasonable, because the Bible was not given to the world nicely printed and attached to a parachute. It was the result of a historical process in which the Roman Catholic Church played the major role. The books of the New Testament are Catholic books, written by Catholic bishops, and only the Church whose bishops wrote them and saved them is the authentic interpreter of those books.
Anyone who accepts the New Testament as the inspired word of God is accepting the testimony of the Catholic Church who said so. She established the New Testament Canon in the Council of Carthage, in 397.
What Luther called “the gospel” was only his prejudiced interpretation of the Scriptures, namely, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
He taught that:
1) The Ten Commandments are not binding on Christians, who must remove them out of sight and heart.
2) It is impossible to be chaste, as chastity is physically impossible, and those who attempt to be so are fools because “there are plenty of maidens and women.”
3) “Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world . . . sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world; the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.”
4) He was infallible, the very mouth of Christ on earth.
5) Polygamy does not contradict Scripture and a man may marry several wives.
6) The best government was the Muslim one in Turkey, because they had only the Koran to follow, whereas Christians are burdened with canon law and common law.
In his unbridled impurity, the Great Deformer of Christianity did not only impute uncontrollable lasciviousness on every man and woman conceived in sin — he blasphemously imputed adultery on Jesus Christ Himself!
Jesus promised to be with His Church till the end of time, and sent the Holy Spirit to be with her and in her (John 15:26; 14:16-17). If Luther were right in his teachings, then Jesus had allowed His Church to fail. Consequence: He would have failed Himself in keeping His promises. He would not be the Son of God, and the whole of Christianity would be a fake.
Conclusion: Lutherans, friends, brethren in Baptism, come home. You’ve been deceived. Sola Scriptura is unbiblical and anti-Christian. Let us forget the past and be once again united in one Lord, one faith, one Baptism (Eph. 4:5) in the one Church of God, the Pillar and mainstay of the Truth (1 Tim. 33:15).
Jesus built His Church upon a rock, not upon books that would be written after His Ascension into Heaven — the New Testament. He built His Church and His Church wrote the New Testament — not the other way around.
“Thou art Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
+ + +
(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International [HLI], president of the Sacred Heart Institute and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. His web site is: www.RaymondeSouza.com.)