Anti-Sola Scriptura Arguments Refuted:
Click to View
"David A. Barrett's book, World Christian Encyclopedia, says that there are 30,000 denominations that use sola Scriptura. Obviously using the Bible only doesn't work, we need tradition, since there is only one Catholic church!"

TRUTH: Any Traditionalist who misuses David Barrett's data in this way is either dishonest or ignorant. Barrett's data leads us to conclude that there are in fact 30 Roman Catholic denominations and 41 different Orthodox denominations and only 27 "Protestant" denominations and 185 "Independent" denominations. Obviously then, using tradition is not the answer. Further, very few churches in the world actually use sola Scriptura!

 

 

Sola Scriptura proven from the Bible!

Click to View

Click to ViewMore Anti-Sola Scriptura arguments refuted!
Click to ViewA list of Sola Scriptura proof texts.
Click to ViewSola Scriptura home page

 

 

Click to View"There are 30,000 denominations that use sola Scriptura. Obviously using the Bible only doesn't work, we need tradition!"

"Sola Scriptura leads to doctrinal anarchy, which is further reason why you need an infallible authority. Look at all of these Protestant denominations, 30,000 of them the last time I checked. How do you know you're in the correct church?" (Staples/Latar debate on sola Scriptura, Apolonio Latar, Catholic defender, 2002)
"First, it results in hermeneutical anarchy. The fact that hundreds of denominations, each professing to derive its teaching by means of the Holy Spirit's guidance from "Scripture alone," cannot agree even on the fundamentals of the faith, such as the meaning of baptism or the Lord's Supper or even the means of salvation, constitutes a powerful prima facie case against it. ... sola Scriptura has resulted in denominational factionalism. It has spawned thousands of denominations, and sects and cults and conventicles. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of World Christianity, published in 1982, there are more than 28,000 recognizable denominations of Christianity. (Philip Blosser, Philosophical and Practical Problems with Sola Scriptura, 1998)
"The absurdity of this claim [sola Scriptura] is clearly evidenced by the multitude of conflicting interpretations that the thousands of Protestant denominations give to particular biblical passages." (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 100)

Click to View

Refutation of the false Roman Catholic and Orthodox argument:
"There are 30,000 denominations that use sola Scriptura. Obviously using the Bible only doesn't work, we need tradition!"

True Sola Scriptura leads to perfect unity! Oral traditions and creeds cause division!

A. Analysis of Table 1-5 to calculate the number of Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations:

  1. Barrett lists in table 1-5, 25 Orthodox traditions inside the Orthodox church and 22 Roman Catholic traditions inside the Roman Catholic church. Add the 16 Orthodox traditions and 8 Roman Catholic traditions in the "Independent" category, and you of have a grand total of 41 different Orthodox denominations and 30 Roman Catholic denominations.
  2. As you can see, religious division within Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches is about equal with others.
  3. Whereas Traditionalists will claim they are "one" and Protestants are divided into many denominations, we can now see where they got that claim, and why it is so wrong!
  4. As you will see, the 30,000 to 1 ratio spouted by traditionalists is way off. You will see, there are about as many different types of Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches as there are Protestant! They are equally divided!
  5. We also note that the majority of the 209 "Independent" traditions are Pentecostal/Charismatic type churches who do not use sola Scriptura to determine doctrine. There are an additional 24 traditions of Roman Catholic and Orthodox within the "independent" category. This means that of the 209 Independent sects listed, 24 are from the traditions of Roman Catholic and Orthodox!
  6. Final numbers: Barrett's data leads us to conclude that there are 30 Roman Catholic denominations and 41 different Orthodox denominations. This means that the worship, doctrine and liturgy has 30 Roman Catholic variations and 41 Orthodox variations, not to mention the fact that Catholic and Orthodox are divided against themselves. Obviously, oral tradition is not a reliable method of determining truth. Sola Scriptura is the only method that can work.

B. Assessments and comments:

  1. Roman Catholic's and Orthodox should cast no stones at the religious division of Protestants, since there are between 30-410 Roman Catholic denominations and between 41-1302 Orthodox denominations. (Depending how your count them: see conclusions.)
  2. "Oral tradition leads to doctrinal anarchy, which is further reason why you need to use sola Scriptura. Look at all of these Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations, no less than 71 of them the last time I checked. How do Catholics and Orthodox know you're in the correct church?" Which of the 71 "oral traditions" is the true one?
  3. There are over 142 different Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations. This fact will come as a shock to most Catholics and Orthodox believers. We suggest you write your leaders and tell them to stop using the "division" argument against sola Scriptura because it comes back and bites you!
  4. This is a case of blind hypocrisy because not only are the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches bitterly divided against themselves, there are also more than 30 different Catholic denominations and 41Orthodox denominations. Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches made the identical claim that they have the true apostolic church tradition yet they differ so much in doctrine and liturgy, that they are not even "in fellowship" with each other. Obviously then, using tradition creates just as many different doctrines as Protestant churches.
  5. Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition defenders are merely highlighting the failure of creedalism, not true sola Scriptura. The reasons these "Sola Scriptura churches" differ in doctrine, is because they truly are not using the Bible alone, but use creeds like traditionalists.
  6. Many churches that claim to use the Bible alone, in fact do not. So the Roman Catholic and Orthodox observation that "sola Scriptura churches" differ in doctrine is invalid because they are not really "sola Scriptura" churches since they use creeds, councils and statements of faith in addition to the Bible to determine doctrine. We call them pseudo-Sola Scriptura churches.
  7. "Pseudo-Sola Scriptura" churches that claim such "personal illumination" differ as greatly in their doctrine, as the "Anti-Sola Scriptura" do in regards to their tradition. So Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders need find another line of reasoning that makes no reference to "guidance from the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible alone". We reject this as a false doctrine, as much as papal infallibility.
  8. So anti-sola Scriptura churches like Roman Catholic and Orthodox differ with each other for exactly the same reason pseudo-Sola Scriptura churches: They both use human creeds as standards of doctrine.
  9. Further, these Protestants are protesting the Catholic and Orthodox system. Obviously God did not see fit to give Rome or Constantinople any supremacy, otherwise they would not be protested so much. The fact that there is protest on this kind of universal protest on such a large scale proves something is very wrong. This failure is highlighted by the fact that the Orthodox church rejected the Roman church's claim for world domination. The East (Orthodox) basically told the bishop of Rome, "It has never been this way, why should we start now!"
  10. Amazing Catholics claim the are the true church and Orthodox is the denomination, and the Orthodox say that they are the true church and the Roman Catholic is the denomination, yet both claim apostolic succession and oral tradition. Both are wrong, only through scripture can you have unity!
  11. The following table is taken from David B. Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, 2001, p 14-15.

C.  Table 1-3 Organized Christianity: Global totals in 1995 AD

Note: Denomination is defined in Barrett's book, as an organization within a single country. This means that if the Roman Catholic church is in 234 countries, it would have a at least 234 denominations listed. Conversely, To say the Roman Catholic church has 239 denominations in 234 countries, is a conclusion that seriously misreads the data. On the other hand, the fact that there are 8848 denominations in the Protestant column, does not mean there are 8848 Protestant denominations as Catholics suggest. If you divide 8848 by the 237 countries, you come up with a figure of only actual 37 denominations in 237 countries. This calculation (8848/237 = 37) is close the real figure because table 1-5, lists 27 distinct Protestant traditions. We have taken the liberty of adding a new "sects" column below which is a more accurate picture of actual denominations.

Table 1-3

Mega-bloc

Denominations in 1995

countries

Sects
(table 1-5)

Roman Catholic

239

234

22

Orthodox

764

133

25

Protestant

8848

231

27

Anglicans

168

162

7

Independent

21,582

220

209

Marginal

1,488

215

15

Total

33,089

237

305

(David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, p 12)

22 Roman Catholic sects within Roman Catholicism under Rome's direct control:

25 Orthodox sects within Orthodoxy direct communion with Constantinople:

1. Armenian (Eastern-rite Catholic)
2. Bulgarian (Byzantine rite)
3. Byzantine-rite (jurisdiction for more than one ethnic group)
4. Chaldean (Eastern Syrian rile)
5. Coptic (Alexandrian rite)
6. Ethmpic, Alexandrian rite)
7. Greek (Byzantine rite)
8. Hungarian (Byzantine rite)
9. Italo-Albanian (Byzantine rile)
10. Jurisdiction for both Latin-rite and Eastern-rite Catholics
11. Latin-roe Catholic
12. Malankara (Syro-Antiochian Eastern Syrian), Syro-Malankarese
13. Maronite (Syro-Antiochian, Western Syrian)
14. Melkite (Byzantine, Greek Catholic; Arabic-speaking)
15. Oriental (Jurisdiction for several Eastern rites)
16. Ian Byzantine rite
17. Russian (Byzantine rite)
18. Ruthenian (Byzantine rite)
19. Slovak (Byzantine rite)
20. Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Syrian)
21. Syrian, Syriac-speaking (Syro-Antiochian West Syrian)
22. Ukrainian Byzantine rite

1. Albanian / Greek-speaking (Orthodox)
2. Arabic or Arabic / Greek-speaking Orthodox
3. Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian)
4. Bulgarian Orthodox
5. Byelorussian / Belorussian (While Russian / White Ruthenian)
6. Coptic Orthodox
7. Czech / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
8. Estonian Orthodox
9. Ethiopic, Ethiopian Orthodox, GoOez-speaking
10. Finnish / Slavonic-Speaking Orthodox
11. Georgian Orthodox
12. Greek Orthodox
13. Hungarian / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
14. Latvian Orthodox
15. Macedonian Orthodox
16. Moldavian Orthodox
17. Assyrian or Nestoran (East Syrian, Messihaye (Christians)
18. Polish/Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
19. Romanian Orthodox
20. Russian Orthodox
21. Serbian Orthodox
22. Slovak Orthodox
23. Syro-Malabarese (Eastern-Syrian), Syriac/Malayalam-speaking
24. Syrian, Syriac-speaking Orthodox or Syro-Antiochian
25. Ukrainian Orthodox

 (Table 1-5: David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, p 16-18)

D. 24 Independent subgroups: 8 Roman Catholic and 16 Orthodox subgroups not in communion with their larger bodies from which they had their origin.

  1. The total "denominations count" in column 11 of Table 1-5 for Roman Catholic is 172 and Orthodox 538 churches within the "Independent" for a total of 710 "denominations" in column 11.
  2. Remember, however, that Barrett counts a single unified sect in three different countries as a count of 3 denominations in column 11.
  3. So we have added column A, "Estimated actual # of denominations" which takes into account Barrett's reckoning system.
  4. In our column A, we estimate that there are 140 denominations. This was calculated using rough averages but is likely reasonably accurate. Note that we also took the middle of high and low figures, meaning that we took the conservative road with the data.

2 Name
RC = Catholic
OR = Orthodox

3
Congregations
1995

6
Affiliated
1995

11
Denominations 2000

13
countries

A
Estimated actual # of denominations

Independent Anglo-Catholic RC

100

14,000

3

2

2

Independent Byzantine-rite RC

30

6,000

1

1

1

Conservative Catholic (schism ex Rome) RC

3,000

4,518.000

435

30

30

Latin-rite Catholic RC

18,300

5,828,000

5

1

5

Liberal Catholic (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic) RC

300

106,000

27

18

5

Old Believer, Old Ritualist RC

3,300

1,957,000

25

19

10

Old Catholic RC

1,100

886,000

26

19

10

Reformed Catholic, retaining Roman Catholic claims RC

9,500

5,110,000

16

11

3

Independent Bulgarian Orthodox OR

200

500,000

1

1

1

Independent Estonian Orthodox OR

10

9,000

2

2

1

Independent Greek Orthodox OR

20

16,000

2

1

2

Independent Hungarian Orthodox OR

1

1,000

1

1

1

Independent Macedonian Orthodox

3

1,000

1

1

1

Independent Moldavian Orthodox OR

40

630,000

1

1

1

Independent Assyrian or Nestorian (East Syrian) OR

100

74,000

5

3

5

Old Calendarist Authentic Orthodox OR

300

261,000

8

4

5

schism from Orthodoxy, in Protestant direction OR

300

95.000

28

6

20

Orthodox sect/sectarian OR

900

139.000

30

3

15

Reformed Orthodox (uncanonical reform movement) OR

1800

1,023,000

23

15

12

Independent Romanian Orthodox OR

100

110,000

3

3

1

Independent Russian Orthodox OR

700

921.000

32

30

3

Independent Serbian Orthodox OR

50

34,000

5

5

1

True Orthodox (devoutly conservative Russian Orthodox) OR

8,100

358,000

6

4

2

Independent Ukrainian Orthodox OR

3,400

6,324,000

24

18

3

Totals: 24
8 RC
16 OR

51,654

23,253,673

710
172 RC

538 OR

-

Estimated number of denominations for both Orthodox and Roman Catholic independent. This was calculated using rough averages but is likely reasonably accurate. Note that we also took the middle of high and low figures, meaning that we took the conservative road with the data.

140
66 RC
74 OR

 (Table 1-5: David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001, p 16-18)

E. Apples to Apples comparisons when quoting Barrett's 30,000 denominations figure:

  1. If Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition defenders say there are 30,000 Protestant denominations, (table 1-3) this is factually in error, since Barrett says there are 8848 Protestant denominations.
  2. Apples to Apples A: If Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition defenders say there are 30,000 Protestant denominations (column 11, table 1-3), then the apples to apples number that corresponds to them in table 1-3 is a total of 1712 Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations. (410 Roman Catholic + 1302 Orthodox = 1712) Remember, you must add in the total number of 710 independent splits from the Roman Catholic (172) and Orthodox (538) churches traditions. Remember, however, that Barrett counts a single unified sect in three different countries as a count of 3 denominations in column 11, so a single denomination in 238 countries, would be counted by Barrett as having 238 denominations in column 11. Column 11, therefore is not helpful by itself in determining actual denominations in the classical sense.
  3. Apples to Apples B: To calculate the actual number of Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations, we need to use column 2, table 1-5 from Barrett's work. Barrett notes that although under one head, even the Roman Catholic are divided into 22 different denominations with varying liturgy and the Orthodox church under Constantinople/ Ecumenical Patriarch has 25 variations. We add to this the independent splits, not in communion with the mother churches (Rome and Constantinople) There are 66 independent denominations that are "Roman Catholic like" and 74 independent denominations that are "Orthodox like".
  4. Apples to Apples C: If Roman Catholics object to our counting those under Rome as 22 denominations and Orthodox object to our counting those under Constantinople as having 25 variations, then we have created a third comparison that will quell the whining. In Comparison #3, we counted all the divisions under Rome and Constantinople as one each. Here we merely added the schisms in column 2 of table 1-5 in the "independent" category.

.

Comparison #1

Comparison #2

Comparison #3

.

Denominations:
Apples to Apples A
(column 11, table 1-3)

Denominations:
Apples to Apples B
(table 1-5)

Denominations:
Apples to Apples C
(table 1-5)

Roman Catholic

238 + 172 = 410
(172 from independent)

88
(22 variations under the Rome/Pope + 66 from independent)

67
(The 22 variations under the Rome/Pope counted as 1 + 66 from independent)

Orthodox

764 + 538 = 1302
(538 from independent)

99
(25 variations under Constantinople/ Ecumenical Patriarch + 74 from independent)

75
(25 variations under Constantinople/ Ecumenical Patriarch counted as 1 + 74 from independent)

Protestant

8848

27

27

Independent

21,582 - 710 = 20,872
(710 total RC and Orthodox)

209- 24 = 185 (24 from column 2 in table 1-5)

209- 24 = 185 (24 from column 2 in table 1-5)

F. Baptists, Calvinists side with the Catholic traditionalists:

Inward Witness Creedalists claim using the Bible alone causes religious division: Inward Witness Creedalists are a dangerous bunch because they infect others with their self deception. On one hand they say scripture is understandable, yet they claim you cannot understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit. On one hand they criticize the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches for keeping the Bible out of the hands of the masses, yet claim that only their own denominations got the doctrine right.

 "Perhaps the best way to explain the fundamental problem with the modern Evangelical version of solo scriptura would be through the use of an illustration to which many believers may be able to relate. Almost every Christian who has wrestled with theological questions has encountered the problem of competing interpretations of Scripture. If one asks a dispensationalist pastor, for example, why he teaches premillennialism, the answer will be, "Because the Bible teaches premillennialism:' If one asks the conservative Presbyterian pastor across the street why he teaches amillennialism (or postmillennialism), the answer will likely be, "Because that is what the Bible teaches." Each man will claim that the other is in error, but by what ultimate authority do they typically make such a judgment? Each man will claim that he bases his judgment on the authority of the Bible, but since each man's interpretation is mutually exclusive of the other's, both interpretations cannot be correct. How then do we discern which interpretation is correct? The typical modern Evangelical solution to this problem is to tell the inquirer to examine the arguments on both sides and decide which of them is closest to the teaching of Scripture. He is told that this is what sola scriptura means-to individually evaluate all doctrines according to the only authority, the Scripture. Yet in reality, all that occurs is that one Christian measures the scriptural interpretations of other Christians against the standard of his own scriptural interpretation. Rather than placing the final authority in Scripture as it intends to do, this concept of Scripture places the final authority in the reason and judgment of each individual believer. The result is the relativism, subjectivism, and theological chaos that we see in modern Evangelicalism today." (The Shape Of Sola Scriptura, Keith A. Mathison, Reformed Protestant, 2001, p 239)

Conclusion:

  1. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have no "high moral ground" upon which to walk when it comes to denominationalism. They are highly divided even within their own ranks.
  2. If traditionalists claim there are 30,000 Protestant denominations, then apples to apples, there are 1712 traditionalist denominations. (410 Roman Catholic + 1302 Orthodox = 1712) An apples to apples comparison would look like this:
  3. Table "Conclusion A"

     

    Type

    Number of denominations

    Roman Catholic

    410

    Orthodox

    1302

    Protestant

    8848

    Independent

    20,872

  4. In fact, there are 22 different liturgies under the Bishop of Rome's (Roman Catholic) authority and there are 25 different liturgies that are in direct "communion" with the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople. Adding the schisms listed in the "independent" section of our column: "A Estimated actual # of denominations" (74 Orthodox and 66 Catholic), an apples to apples comparison would look like this:
  5. Table "Conclusion B"

     

    Type

    Number of denominations

    Roman Catholic

    88

    Orthodox

    99

    Protestant

    27

    Independent

    185

  6. If Traditionalists complain we cannot count all those under Roman Catholic control as 22 denominations, and 25 in communion with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, we have modified the data to appease this complaint purely for the sake of argument. In addition to this variation within each of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches (to which we are willing for the moment to turn a blind eye and count as 1), there are an additional 66 independent schismatic Roman Catholic churches and additional 74 independent schismatic Orthodox churches. An apples to apples comparison would then look like this, and we note, this is as good as it can possibly get for traditionalists and it still looks bad for them:
  7. Table "Conclusion C"

     

    Type

    Number of denominations

    Roman Catholic

    67

    Orthodox

    75

    Protestant

    27

    Independent

    185

  8. By merely counting the broad categories of communions listed column "2 Name" of table 1-5 and adding the independent schisms an apples to apples comparison would look like this:
  9. Table "Conclusion D"

     

    Type

    Number of denominations

    Roman Catholic

    30

    Orthodox

    41

    Protestant

    27

    Independent

    185

  10. If Traditionalists complain that in Table "Conclusion D" we cannot count all those under Roman Catholic control as 22 denominations, and 25 in communion with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, we have modified the data to appease this complaint purely for the sake of argument. We add the 8 Roman Catholic and the 16 Orthodox churches to arrive at this apples comparison:
  11. Table "Conclusion E"

     

    Type

    Number of denominations

    Roman Catholic

    9

    Orthodox

    17

    Protestant

    27

    Independent

    185

  12. It is obvious therefore, that the Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders are guilty of the very thing they charge Protestants of: religious division.
  13. Any tradition defender who claims "apostolic oral tradition and succession" is a superior system to sola Scriptura for determining truth and liturgy, is either dishonest or ignorant of the facts.
  14. We note that none of the "Protestant" groups listed are genuine sola Scriptura, but like Traditionalists, rely upon human creeds. We classify all the Protestants as "pseudo sola Scriptura" since although they claim to operate under the principle of sola Scriptura, in practice they are as tradition and creed bound as Roman Catholic and Orthodox.
  15. We note that the almost all of the "Independent" groups listed in table 1-5 are "pseudo sola Scriptura" who use creeds and claim direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit for determining truth.
  16. A careful examining of the 209 denominations listed in the "Independent" category of table 1-5, are Charismatic/Pentecostal. These are certainly not sola Scriptura type churches, since they rely more on direct revelation from the Holy Spirit for truth, then the scriptures themselves. Anyone who has studied with these groups knows that it matters little what the scriptures say because they always reply, "Your view of scripture must be wrong, because our church has the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit and therefore our view must be right."
  17. Only sola Scriptura will bring about unity of faith world wide. Tradition has failed the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. Creeds have failed the Protestants.
  18. So arranging the data to discriminate between true sola Scriptura, Pseudo sola Scriptura, and traditionalist, you come up with the following comparison:

Table "Conclusion F"

 

Type

Number of denominations

Traditionalist

142

Pseudo sola Scriptura (Protestant, Reform, Baptist etc)

27

Non sola Scriptura (Charismatic/ Pentecostal)

184

Sola Scriptura

1

.

Click to View

Click to ViewClick here to find a congregation of this one sola Scriptura church in your own home town!

.

.

.

Click to ViewMore Anti-Sola Scriptura arguments refuted!

Click to ViewMore Pro-Oral Church tradition arguments refuted!

 

by Steve Rudd (click to email your comments)

 

 Click to View

Go To Start: WWW.BIBLE.CA