Sola Scriptura: The Bible alone is enough!

Apostolic Fathers used scripture as the primary defense against false doctrine.

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Mandatory: Apostolic Fathers Catechism Class for Catholics and Orthodox.

180 AD: Irenaeus:

  1. "We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3, 1, 1)
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    Irenaeus states that the gospel was first orally revealed, then the gospel was recorded in scriptures and calls the scriptures the "ground and pillar" of faith. This should send shivers up the spine of every Roman Catholic and Orthodox because it is a clear interpretation of 1 Tim 3:15 where the same expression is used of the church. Obviously then, Irenaeus viewed that the church came second in authority under the scriptures. It is also clear that you can make no change from what the apostles teach as it was the unchangeable standard of doctrine.
  2. "1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? 2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3, 4, 1-2)
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    Irenaeus identifies that both inspired apostolic oral and written tradition are carefully preserved by the churches in succession over time. It is obvious from the passage that scripture is included in this category of "ancient tradition of the apostles". To say it excludes scripture, as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches say it does, and then say the text only discusses oral tradition, is as unwarranted as it is silly. The oral tradition that is identified in the text is in fact a creed (in blue) that is identical to the scriptures. Had this oral tradition contained a key doctrine not found in scripture, then the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches would have a powerful point. Our view of sola Scriptura is reinforced by this passage. What this passage is talking about happens all the time today when we spontaneously and unexpectedly teach a sinner the gospel in a city park when we have no Bible in hand. We rely on "oral tradition" in the absence of written documents. Had Irenaeus' creed (in blue) included any extra biblical doctrines like, the perpetual virginity and assumption of Mary, infant baptism, triple baptism; the sign of the cross etc., then Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders would still only have a weak argument at best. But since there are no extra biblical doctrines, it actually supports our view that all "inspired apostolic tradition" was also contained in scripture. We are not denying "oral apostolic tradition", we merely say it is identical with scripture.
  3. "When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world." And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch 2, 1-2).
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    Irenaeus shows that the scriptures were the first line of attack against false teachers who were outright refuted by the written tradition of the apostles. Notice how much these Gnostics sound like Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders when they say that you cannot understand the Bible UNLESS you have the tradition correct and that the truth was more fully revealed orally then in the scriptures. We have seen this first hand when teaching Roman Catholics and Orthodox. You outright refute them in the scriptures, then the Catholic will reply, "you cannot understand the Bible without our church traditions". When you point out the fact that not only does the Orthodox practice contradict scripture, it contradicts the tradition of history (apostolic fathers), they "
    consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition", just as Irenaeus says the Gnostics do. The tradition that originates from the apostles and is "preserved succession of presbyters in the Churches" is not some separate set of teaching distinct from scripture, but the living witness of what the scriptures teach in the local churches. Irenaeus point the Gnostics to the scriptures and they reject it. He then points to the visible doctrine of the church (which is identical to scripture) and they reject it. The Roman Catholic or Orthodox will find no help in Irenaeus for a church tradition that teaches different than scripture.
  4. "Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch 3, 2).
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    Irenaeus says we see truth that the "
    apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously". Again, this provides no proof of an oral tradition with a different set of doctrines that are nowhere revealed in the written apostolic tradition (bible). In fact we are quite certain that written apostolic tradition must be included in this statement. Doesn't the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches believe that they preserved the scriptures? Of course they do! If the early church had not preserved the written tradition, we would not even have the scriptures today they would have been lost!


by Steve Rudd



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