Introduction to Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura?

Go to the Beginning of this Book Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura? (The Bible Alone or the Bible First?) – What Scripture Alone Testifies Concerning the Church as the Body of Christ Expressing Himself in Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium: The Biblical Basis for the Early Church’s Formal Repudiation of Heretics, Which Is the Biblical Basis for Refuting Modern Doctrinally Liberal Christianity Which Likewise Rejects or Doubts Traditional Christian Faith and Morality


Protestant Christians since the 16th Century Protestant Reformation have claimed Sola Scriptura or Scripture Alone as the only authority, source and guide for Christian belief, morals and practice. The Catholic Church whose Roman Rite they protested against and left admits Sacred Scripture as the supreme norm, the norma normans non-normata ( the norm which norms other norms, but is not itself normed ) for the Christian faith, but insists that there are two other norms which indispensably work in conjunction with and support Sacred Scripture: Tradition and Magisterium, both functions of the Church as the still-living Body of Christ. The following sections will discuss in some detail just what these two additional norms are, and further consider Prima Scriptura, the Catholic primacy of Scripture over Tradition and Magisterium (making the Protestant and Catholic positions closer than we usually think), before discussing just how both Protestant and Catholic Christians actually use the Scriptural testimony, and just what that testimony is where it reflects upon this point of dispute.

Overview of this Book: The Body of Christ and Tradition and Magisterium Scriptures as the Early Church Understood Them Are the Best (And Only Long Term) Defense Against Doctrinal Liberalism and Heresy

The main section of the essay, The Testimony of the Scriptures and the Principles Which Follow , deals mostly with the Biblical evidence alone, while many of the footnotes briefly offer supporting facts from Christian history which show how these Scriptures were put into practice by the Early Church in its formal condemnation of many early heretical interpretations of the Bible which arose within the Early Church. The Catholic (Universal) Communion of (currently 26) Orthodox Christian Sister Churches or Rites (the Roman Rite Protestants broke away from being currently the largest), which Communion is commonly known as simply the Catholic Church, in all its Sister Churches has remained forever free from the many early heresies which plagued the Early Church because it is committed to recognize this Biblical basis for confirming orthodoxy and refuting heresy. Evangelical and other conservative Protestant Christians will likewise find that these Scriptures provide the strongest Biblical defense against the modern doctrinal liberalism, destructive of traditional Christian faith and morality and often mirroring the early heresies, which has claimed huge portions of formerly orthodox and conservative mainline Protestant Christianity (including the large mainline Protestant denomination I was born and raised in). Since I think most self-described liberal Christians or Christians who belong to now-liberal denominations are not actually committed to positions against traditional Christian orthodoxy, but rather are uncertain about these traditional fundamentals, I hope that liberal Christians will recognize here the Biblical basis for the certainty about the fundamental tenets of Christianity which they lack and possibly long for, and then be motivated to take the leap of faith to become conservative Christians supernaturally empowered by this fundamental core of revealed Truth given by Christ to His Church, the traditional, orthodox Christian Truth which historically transformed the pagan Roman Empire and even the barbarians who later overran it with Jesus powerful love. I realize that these Scriptures (and their actual historical Early Church application) will be uncomfortable even for some conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christian readers because they challenge some of their specifically Protestant assumptions, but after all, any truly Biblical doctrine of the source or sources of the Christian faith must take these Holy-Spirit-inspired Biblical Scriptures into full account.

In any case, Protestant readers should be comforted by the fact these Scriptures and their traditional application in the Early Church and still today in the Catholic Church Communion are the premier defense of the traditional fundamental tenets of Christian orthodoxy and traditional Christian morality which so many Protestant Christians have lost to doctrinal liberalism (replacing them with all kinds of contradictory things). As even conservative and Evangelical Protestant Christians today do not strictly follow Luther and the other Protestant Reformers in very many areas, it will certainly be worthwhile for them to consider, for the sake of the traditional fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy and morality which conservative Protestant Christians hold so dear, what Biblical neglect errors the Protestant Reformers may have made which have allowed doctrinal liberalism to flourish only in Protestant churches. The simple fact is that every doctrinally liberal Protestant Christian denomination which today questions, doubts, or denies the fundamental tenets of traditional Christianity used to be an orthodox, conservative Protestant Christian denomination which wholeheartedly affirmed them and was supernaturally empowered by this life-giving Truth. Protestant Christianity is vulnerable to doctrinal liberalism in a way which Catholic Christianity is not, specifically because of the Protestant Reformation s failure to take these following Scriptures into full account the way the Early Church did. Since both conservative and liberal Protestant Christians claim the Bible Alone as their source for knowing their Christian faith, this consideration of Biblical Scriptures and their Early Church use preserved in the Catholic Church Communion will be very enlightening for liberal Protestant Christians to know the Biblical source of the certainty about traditional Christian fundamentals which they lack, and for conservative Protestant Christians to know their best Biblical defense against their denominations in the future succumbing to doctrinal liberalism as did other formerly conservative Protestant denominations. The four appendices offer further considerations, based on the Scriptural evidence presented in the main essay, of why Protestant Christianity is so vulnerable to doctrinal liberalism and why Catholic Christians have a strong defense against doctrinal liberalism.

While it is true that there is such a thing as doctrinally liberal individual Catholic Christians, including some scholars who have sown confusion among many Catholic Christians, they have no official voice or authority in the Catholic Church (whereas whole Protestant denominations have been overrun by doctrinal liberalism). Moreover, their very existence comes from Catholic scholars starting in the late 1800s learning the methods of Biblical studies (based in Protestant assumptions) earlier developed by Protestant scholars, which leads such Catholic scholars to likewise dissent or protest against the Catholic Magisterium’s teaching in the same way Protestant scholars using these methods have gradually come to challenge or abandon even the traditional Christian fundamentals originally maintained (from the Catholic Church they broke away from) by the original Protestant Reformation churches. The good thing is, even most liberal Catholic scholars will not presume to question those doctrines which the Catholic Magisterium has proclaimed as unchangeable dogma, which include all the basic fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy, which means the damage that doctrinal liberalism can do in the Catholic Church is severely limited, while doctrinal liberalism has ravaged the majority of Protestant Christianity in the Mainline Protestant denominations (including the one I was raised in!). Protestant Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism are twentieth century backlash movements against doctrinal liberalism in the original and later mainline Protestant denominations. Doctrinal liberalism is a particularly Protestant disease which has infected the fringes of the Catholic Church but remains a mere annoyance comparatively.

This is not to say the Catholic Church has no weaknesses – she particularly suffers from many “nominal” or “in name only” members (more noticeably so than many Evangelical denominations). This essay discusses what Catholic Christians believe are a BIBLICAL NEGLECT of Protestantism from its 16th Century origins which has gradually but logically resulted in the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations eventually “losing their grip” on even the most basic essentials of traditional, historic Christianity. This discussion is offered in a spirit of affection for my “separated brothers” in Protestant churches, as part of a loving brotherly dialogue in which I hope that, as members of the One Body of Christ, we can share with each other our different strengths to help each other eventually overcome our different weaknesses. The next step in this dialogue about our disagreement over Protestant Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) or Catholic Prima Scriptura (“Scripture First supported by Tradition and Magisterium as functions of the Living Body of Christ the Church)” will be for Christian brothers on both sides of the disagreement to understand clearly just what these other two norms of Christian faith are. Each will be described in detail in the next two sections.

© 2003, 2006, 2011 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Go To Next Section Sacred Tradition is the Bride of Christ Dancing with Him Throughout History

Go to the Beginning of this Book Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura? (The Bible Alone or the Bible First?) – What Scripture Alone Testifies Concerning the Church as the Body of Christ Expressing Himself in Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium: The Biblical Basis for the Early Church’s Formal Repudiation of Heretics, Which Is the Biblical Basis for Refuting Modern Doctrinally Liberal Christianity Which Likewise Rejects or Doubts Traditional Christian Faith and Morality

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