Sola Scriptura: The Bible alone is enough!
Apostolic Fathers used scripture as the primary defense against false doctrine.
Apostolic Fathers: Dates they lived and other information.
Apostolic Fathers: Five kinds of Tradition.
200 AD: Tertullian:
"From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for "no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach-that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached-in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them-can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles rounded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both viva voce [living voice], as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches-those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth." (Tertullian, The prescription against the heretics, Ch 21)
Tertullian clearly states that their doctrine and practice is identical to what the apostles taught orally and with scripture. Tertullian uses the expression "viva voce" (living voice) which is merely a reference to inspired oral revelation. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have changed the original meaning of "viva voce" from the words spoken by inspired apostles, to whatever the current practice and dogma of the church is today. Here is proof: "But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church? ... I may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. ... The only Divine evidence to us of what was primitive is the witness and voice of the Church at this hour." (Henry Edward Manning, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost: Or Reason and Revelation, 1865, p 227-228) To anyone with an ounce of insight, this statement is not only opposite to what Tertullian means it is utter heresy because it ignores history (Fathers) and scripture. Anyone who has talked to a Roman Catholic or Orthodox preacher, knows this is indeed exactly how they think!
If you had not purposely rejected in some instances, and corrupted in others, the Scriptures which are opposed to your opinion, you would have been confuted in this matter by the Gospel of John, when it declares that the Spirit descended in the body of a dove, and sat upon the Lord. (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 3)
Tertullian appeals to scriptures as his primary and foremost doctrinal standard with no mention of oral tradition. Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders today merely say, "the current tradition of the church is the standard." Further, These leaders don't even believe the scriptures can be understood by the common people so obviously they would feel Tertullian was wasting his time even arguing scripture with the Gnostics.
"But there is no evidence of this, because Scripture says nothing." ... "The Scripture says nothing of this, although it is not in other instances silent" ..."I do not admit what you advance of your own apart from Scripture." (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 6; ch 7)
In refuting the Gnostics, Tertullian appeals to the silence of scripture as proof they are wrong. Whereas Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches today openly preach we must practice many things not revealed in scripture, Tertullian says otherwise. Tertullian therefore, not only shows we must not "exceed what is written" but that scripture itself is the all-sufficient standard. It is also noteworthy that when the Gnostics were actually making appeals to their own "oral traditions", Tertullian initially fought back, not by saying that church tradition was silent, but that the scriptures taught no such doctrine. The Gnostics argued with oral tradition and Tertullian refuted with scripture! We agree and do the same today in fighting the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches! We fight their tradition with scripture just like Tertullian did!
"But to what shifts you resort, in your attempt to rob the syllable ex (Indicating the material or ingredient, "out of.") of its proper force as a preposition, and to substitute another for it in a sense not found throughout the Holy Scriptures! (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 20)
Tertullian appeals to the private interpretation of a preposition of a word found in scripture. In a most "un-Roman catholic" way, he expects the Gnostics to possess the ability to be able to both understand and properly interpret this, even as heretics! Obviously Tertullian believed that the scripture was understandable, by merely reading it. Paul stated as much in Eph 3:3-5, "When you read you can have my same level of understanding of the mystery of Christ."
"We have, however, challenged these opinions to the test, both of the arguments which sustain them, and of the Scriptures which are appealed to, and this we have done ex abundanti; so that we have, by showing what the flesh of Christ was" (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 25)
Tertullian says that he "abundantly" appealed to scripture to refute the heretics. Orthodox are surprised by this and would have expected Tertullian to merely say, "its not what our current church tradition is".
"And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has. (Tertullian, The crown or De Corona, ch 3-4)
We love this statement by Tertullian because it proves our point that he used the Bible only to determine doctrine to the exclusion of oral tradition. Now we are actually shocked that Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologists would ever want to refer to this text because it utterly refutes their claim that there is an oral tradition with doctrines that are distinct from, and missing from scripture! If these anti-sola Scriptura advocates are correct, that we must follow, as Tertullian did, "tradition" then why do neither the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches say as a matter of liturgy before they are baptized: "solemnly profess that we disown the devil". Why do Orthodox immerse three times ... just as Tertullian says you should do in tradition, "thrice immersed" yet the Catholics reject this tradition and sprinkle once? After being baptized, why do both the Catholic and Orthodox churches disobey "Tertullian's apostolic tradition" by not "a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week"? In fact they all disobey this apostolic tradition and take a bath as soon as they get home after being baptized! What heresy! Of course, the liturgy of "triple baptism" is not taught in scripture any more than drinking milk/honey and not bathing for a week. These represent localized customs that are expedient. All churches have localized customs and they vary, from congregation to congregation. Remember, there are three kinds of tradition that the apostolic fathers refer to. This is the second type of tradition that is optional because it involves human origin choices that God cares nothing about. Like Tertullian said, "we trace upon the forehead the sign. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none". That's because it is optional for local churches and individual Christians to do. Indeed, even the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do not make the "sign of the cross on the forehead" as was the "apostolic tradition", rather they changed the "apostolic tradition" and started making the sign of the cross on the chest! It is these expedient things that are "tradition" and clearly optional that scripture is silent about. Other examples of tradition in this same category today, might be making sure the temperature of the water in the baptistery is exactly 77 degrees; holding the person being baptized under water for exactly three second, one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. So this very passage by Tertullian that Roman Catholic and Orthodox anti-sola Scriptura advocates quote to disprove sola Scriptura, in fact refutes them! This passage also clearly shows the category of "tradition" that all the "Apostolic Fathers" viewed was not found in scripture. Unlike "classical reformers" like Keith A. Matheson, who stated in his book, "The shape of sola Scriptura", that it is important to maintain the oral traditions of the post-apostolic church, we reject this completely because there was a clear and steady drift away from New Testament doctrine and liturgy immediately following the death of the apostles. For us, if it is not in the Bible, we don't do it!
"Now, with regard to this rule of faith-that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend-it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen "in diverse manners" by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics." (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII)
The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches love to quote (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII) as proof that Tertullian had an oral apostolic tradition that was distinct from scripture. We who teach sola Scriptura, actually have no problem agreeing! Tertullian calls this oral tradition, "the rule of faith". We agree that it was a creed, but notice it contains absolutely nothing, except what the scriptures specifically reveal. This would have been a powerful witness for the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches if such a "rule of faith" actually contained doctrinal details not found in scripture like: the perpetual virginity and assumption of Mary; infant baptism; triple baptism; the sign of the cross etc. In fact, Tertullian's "rule of faith" is proof of our major premise, namely, that all such "apostolic traditions" that were considered essential were based entirely (100%) upon scripture. Even in the Lord's true church today, any member at random, if asked from the pulpit, could give a similar "one paragraph summary" of the true faith. Even the apostle Paul gives a similar type of "one paragraph summary" of doctrine in 1 Cor 15:3-8. Of course, we must take issue with Tertullian's "rule of faith" on one key point: While he views this extra-biblical, man-made document authoritative in itself, even if it is directly based upon scripture, the correct approach is to give it no more authority than the many different "one paragraph summaries of faith" each member might give. Tertullian's creed, began a very dangerous trend where eventually, as we see in most denominations today, creeds have actually supplanted and replaced scripture as the ultimate authority.
""With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?" For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. (Tertullian, The prescription against the heretics, Ch 19)
It is clear that Tertullian accepts the creed, which he calls "the rule of faith" as an extra-biblical witness to truth. But it is also clear, from what he wrote in (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII, see above in blue) that this creed contained nothing distinct from what the scriptures teach.
"Silence! Silence on such blasphemy. Let us be content with saving that Christ died, the Son of the Father; and let this suffice, because the Scriptures have told us so much. For even the apostle, to his declaration-which he makes not without feeling the weight of it-that "Christ died," immediately adds, "according to the Scriptures," in order that he may alleviate the harshness of the statement by the authority of the Scriptures, and so remove offence from the reader." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, ch 29)
Tertullian takes the view that if the scriptures speak on a subject, it is the only authority needed.
What, therefore, did not exist, the Scripture [Gnostic false doctrine] was unable to mention; and by not mentioning it, it has given us a clear proof that there was no such thing: for if there had been, the Scripture would have mentioned it. (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes, ch 20)
Tertullian makes the profound statement that the Gnostics are wrong because scripture doesn't teach their doctrine. If there existed a separate channel of doctrinal authority, as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches say exists, the Gnostics would have countered Tertullian by saying, "That's a silly argument Tertullian, because you know there are all kinds of doctrines the church teaches that are not found in the scripture, but are considered true, because they are "oral apostolic tradition". We do not deny oral apostolic tradition was considered authoritative in the early church, just that it never differed in any way from what was in scripture. The both the church and the Gnostics understood this and that is why Tertullian refutes them based upon the silence of scripture.
I revere the fulness of His Scripture, in which He manifests to me both the Creator and the creation. In the gospel, moreover, I discover a Minister and Witness of the Creator, even His Word. But whether all things were made out of any underlying Matter, I have as yet failed anywhere to find. Where such a statement is written, Hermogenes' shop must tell us. If it is nowhere written, then let it fear the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word. (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes, ch 22)
Tertullian first claims scripture is all-sufficient and then argues that if the Gnostic doctrines are not in scripture, then they are false.
"Suppose now I should say the city built a theatre and a circus, but the stage ... But this example may be an idle one as being derived from a human circumstance; I will take another, which has the authority of Scripture itself. It says that "God made man of the dust of the ground"" (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes, ch 31)
After using an argument based upon every day life, Tertullian then underscores that this next argument is authoritative because it comes from scripture. This shows that that non-biblical opinions by church leaders should not be considered authoritative. Of course today, bishops and priests demand obedience even when they do not quote scripture by calling it tradition.
by Steve Rudd
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