So I just got done reading Mr. Ben Rosado’s third rebuttal statement (available here) and quite frankly, he has yet to engage Moses in the topic of debate which is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I found myself frustrated and disappointed in reading his response to Moses’ arguments so much so to the point that I wish I could send him a reply. Obviously this is not possible and Moses is well equipped (probably more so than I) to point out the logical fallacies in Mr. Rosado’s argumentation and continue from there. But I did want to take this time and space on the blog to comment on a few things that Mr. Rosado said.Mr. Rosado claimed that:
“…that it is not exactly true when you say that only scripture is God-breathed. After all, there are many instances in the scriptures of other things that are God-breathed…”
And then went on to cite Genesis 2:7 where God forms man out of the dust of the earth and breaths into his nostrils the breath of life and John 20:21-23 where Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. Now it is obvious even upon the most casual reading of this argument that it is a false analogy.
First of all, theopneustos is an adjective describing what all scripture is. In Genesis 2:7 the LXX uses the word enephusēsen which is a verb describing the act of God breathing the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam. After God performs this action Adam is called psuchēn zosan (a living soul)—he is not described with the adjective theopneustos and with good reason, he was not such!
Secondly, the same verb (enephusēsen) is used in John 20:22 when Jesus breathed on the disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. Now this is a wonderful parallel to Genesis 2:7 and could be used in an argument concerning Jesus as Sovereign Lord and Creator, but it has no place in a debate about Sola Scriptura—especially since in the analogy set forth, it is supposed to be comparable to the nature of Scripture! Again, after receiving the action of the verb, the disciples are not referred to as theopneustos.
Thirdly, theopneustos is a hapax legomenon meaning that it is a word used only once in the entire corpus of Greek scripture (to include the LXX). There is no analogy that can be set forth in regard to this word or the implications that it carries. It is unique in the Biblical context because it defines the very nature of what God’s revelation to man is.
He went off on a few rabbit trails and then said:
“For without the holy Spirit, no one can ever understand the scriptures. And hence, Sola Scriptura cannot be true… For you need not only the scriptures, but you also need the holy Spirit to interpret them… But how can anyone receieve [sic] the holy Spirit that was given to the Apostles so long ago? Well they must receive it from those who already have it…”
The problems of this argument are many but I wish to focus in on 1 in particular.
Moses took the time to define the RCC’s position on Sacred Tradition and Scripture by reading what official RCC sources had to say on the matters—Mr. Rosado has not extended this courtesy to Moses. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “The Holy Spirit speaking in the Bible is the supreme judge of all religious controversies, all decisions of religious councils, all the opinions of ancient writers, all human teachings, and every private opinion. We are to be satisfied with the judgment of him who is and can be the only judge.” (Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms in Modern English, (Livonia, MI: Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 2004), I:10, p. 6).
It is the Protestant position that the Holy Spirit DOES guide us in understanding the Scriptures, but he does this THROUGH the scriptures themselves. It is not a subjective inner witness that we rely on to interpret scripture, but rather the Spirit speaking through Scripture itself.
And let us remember that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura simply asserts that the text of Scripture itself is the sole infallible authority in all matters of doctrine and conduct for the believer. It also posits the sufficiency of Scripture to reveal all that is necessary for man to inherit eternal life. Again the WCF says, “The meanings of all the passages in the Bible are not equally obvious, nor is any individual passage equally clear to everyone. However, everything which we have to know, believe, and observe in order to be saved is so clearly presented and revealed somewhere in the Bible that the uneducated as well as educated can sufficiently understand it by proper use of the ordinary means of Grace.” (Ibid., I:7)
And finally Mr. Rosado in arguing for what appears to be the authority of the Magisterium said:
“Non-Catholic preachers will have a hard time trying to prove that they were sent by the authority of GOD since they are not in the line of succession going all the way back to the Apostles. So by what authority do these persons preach? They cannot claim that “GOD told me” either, since that would be, at most, only a private revelation if that, and not a public one, so how could anyone “prove” that their claim to “GOD told me” is to be believed? Anyone can utter the excuse that “GOD told me!”. History is repleat [sic] with heretics, criminals, dictators, and despots who used that term as their supposed justification for their evil deeds.”
This merely begs the question by
1. Assuming the RCC’s apostolic succession without establishing the fact.
2. Rejecting the doctrine of Sola Scriptura without having yet provided sufficient reason for doing so.
This is what leads Mr. Rosado to claim that non-Catholics would have a hard time proving that they were sent by God. In point of fact if the Protestant position on Sola Scriptura is in fact true (which Moses has provided compelling arguments in support of) then it follows that we actually have no problem in proving that we are sent to preach the gospel. This is in fact not a ‘private revelation’ but rather a public declaration made by the Lord Jesus Christ to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:19). We are likewise exhorted by Paul to be ready and preach the word in season and out of season (2Tim. 4:2).
And lastly, the guilt by association fallacy presented by equating all non-Catholics with “heretics, criminals, dictators, and despots” is unwarranted especially in light of Mr. Rosado’s misrepresentation of the Protestant position!
In closing I’d just like to say this… We need a concrete standard, a rule (Gk. kanon) by which to determine what is and is not true. We cannot rely on an inner witness from the Holy Spirit for this because such experiences are at best subjective and at worst deceptive. It is entirely possible that it is not the Holy Spirit speaking at all and rather a demonic force sent to deceive (cf. 1Tim. 4:1). This is clearly the case with the Mormon ‘burning in the bosom’ experience which Roman Catholics would reject as fast if not faster than the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Rather we need the text of Scripture which is theopneustos to stand as our foundation and rule, and by this standard we judge all subjective experiences.
Now of course I am a Charismatic Pentecostal and I very much believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks to us personally, but we can never know if it is the Spirit speaking unless we have the text of Scripture present to gauge what is said. The Spirit of God will never contradict the Word of God which he has inspired, but when men claiming to be led by the Spirit contradict what is written then it is the men and the spirit by which they speak that are wrong.