Sola Scriptura and the Apostolic Fathers!
Apostolic Fathers used scripture as the primary defense against false doctrine.
- When a Roman Catholic and Orthodox reads the quotes we have compiled, he will be quite surprised. They will see that the Fathers talked about the scriptures in a way that is different from their own church leaders.
- It is clear that the "Apostolic Fathers" always maintained a concept of "apostolic tradition" in distinction from the scripture. But what is even clearer, is that this "apostolic tradition" was considered an exact echo of scripture and did not include important doctrines that scripture was silent about.
- The Apostolic Fathers viewed oral tradition between 30 - 100 AD as a duplicate of scripture. They also stated that scripture replaced oral tradition. In other words, there was nothing in oral tradition that was lacking in scripture.
- All the early creeds were based directly upon scripture on a clause by clause basis. This is a crushing blow to Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders, because if ever there was a place that "oral traditions" not found in scripture should have arisen, creeds were the perfect place. Yet we see these creeds were based on scripture. It has also not dawned upon these tradition defenders that creeds are not oral traditions, but written traditions.
- When the Apostolic Fathers spoke of traditions that were not found in scripture, they were minor local customs that were practiced, like drinking milk and honey after baptism and not taking a bath the week after baptism. Of course neither the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do these things today, proving our point, that these were optional customs. Most important, is that these are the only kinds of "oral traditions" that were not found in the Bible that the Fathers spoke about.
- The Apostolic Fathers firmly believed in the all-sufficiency of scripture. They believed that in scripture was revealed everything man needed in life and doctrine.
- In rebuttal to sola Scriptura, Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologists, always point out that many of the "fathers" we quote, also believed in many false doctrines not found in scripture. They argue: "if they believed in using the Bible alone for doctrine, they did a rather poor job of it!" With this we agree. For example, although the final canon was not settled until after 200 AD, by 100 AD, the four gospels, Acts and the 14 letters of Paul were in full and universal circulation. Yet it is within these very letters that prove bishops and presbyters were interchangeable, being the same office. Further, the scriptures are clear that bishops must be married with children. This clear teaching, evidently did not stop the gradual apostasy of church organization that began in about 150 AD and came to full flower in 606 AD. Therefore, it is obvious, that the Fathers maintained the concept of using the Bible as the ultimate and all-sufficient source of doctrine and tradition, while failing to notice the very drifting away from the Bible pattern. Many religions today will say one thing and do another, but the key here is the official approach the "Fathers" voiced that scripture was the final authority.
- Roman Catholic and Orthodox advocates deceptively mislead you into thinking that since the heretics also tried to prove their doctrines from the Bible, the church gave up on scriptural "proof texting" and won the battles by appealing to oral tradition and apostolic succession. This view completely misrepresents history and the facts. Click here to learn why.
A. Apostolic Fathers believed scripture alone was understandable.
B. Master index of the Fathers on Sola Scriptura:Apostolic Fathers: Dates they lived and other information.
C. Apostolic Fathers: Five kinds of Tradition.
D. Catechism class for oral Traditionalists:
Apostolic Fathers: Sola Scriptura Creedalists
"Ignorance of prophetic diction and unskillfulness in interpreting Scripture has led them into a perversion of the point and meaning of the passage." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 1, 35)
Notice how Hilary expected the heretics to be able to understand the scriptures correctly! A Roman Catholic or Orthodox would never say this. Instead, they would say, "The reason the heretics are wrong, is the fact that it is impossible for them to understand the scriptures because only the church can correct interpret the Bible"! If Hilary were Roman Catholic, he would have said, "Its not because of your "ignorance and lack of skill" it's the fact that you are trying at all! Just ask me what the correct interpretation is!" Or even simpler, "Be silent heretic, and read the Nicene creed for yourself!"
"In order to solve as easily as possible this most difficult problem, we must first master the knowledge which the Divine Scriptures give of Father and of Son, that so we may speak with more precision, as dealing with familiar and accustomed matters." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 3, 2)
Hilary again shows that the individual skill can make a difference in properly understanding the Bible whether you are in the church or a heretic! His solution to the Arian controversy was in the scripture, not the Nicene creed.
"Yet it is well for us to know all that has been revealed upon the subject, for though we are not responsible for the words of Scripture, yet we shall have to render an account for the sense we have assigned to them." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 4, 19)
If the church is the infallible interpreter of Scripture as directed by the Holy Spirit, why would Hilary worry about the interpretation? Obviously then, each individual is responsible for the way they interpret scripture!
"And now, although we have found the sense of Scripture, as we understand it, in harmony with the conclusions of ordinary reason, the two agreeing that equality is incompatible either with diversity or with isolation, yet we must seek a fresh support for Our contention from actual words of our Lord. For only so can we check that licence of arbitrary interpretation whereby these bold traducers of the faith would even venture to cavil [raise trivial objections] at the Lord's solemn self-revelation." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 7, 16)
Another powerful statement by Hilary that the scriptures are to be interpreted by the individual. Notice he does not say, "we are the church, we have the Holy Spirit to guide our interpretation", but "as we understand it". He also says that the natural reading of scripture is enough. Why do the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches think that what they write is understandable with "ordinary reason", but what God writes is confusing to all unless you are the Pope? If non-Catholics cannot understand the Bible apart from "God's organization", because the scripture is veiled to the common man, why would they expect the common man to understand their defense of doctrine? Yet Orthodox and Catholic defenders think they are better skilled at writing religious literature than God! For only in their writings can man understand truth!
"Such suggestions are inconsistent with the clear sense of Scripture." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 4, 16)
"There is no room for deception; the words of Scripture are clear" (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 4, 32)
Hilary again states that the Bible is understandable! He dismisses the heretics, not because they can't understand the Bible, but because their doctrines are contrary to the "clear sense of Scripture". The Bible is clear! Its easy to understand! Hilary wonders why the Arians cannot see it? The Orthodox and Roman Catholics teach that the Bible is a veiled document that only becomes clear to the leaders.
"Let this, then, Christ-loving man, be our offering to you, just for a rudimentary sketch and outline, in a short compass, of the faith of Christ and of His Divine appearing to usward. But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said. For they were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke of God. But we impart of what we have learned from inspired teachers who have been conversant with them, who have also become martyrs for the deity of Christ, to your zeal for learning, in turn. (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, 56)
Whereas the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches teach that only the church can correctly interpret the Bible, Athanasius really believed that scripture was understandable by the common man by simply reading it! Notice it is addressed to the "Christ-loving man", to all! This kind of statement from Athanasius, should be troubling for Catholics and Orthodox alike, since, he is the a church leader who is not supposed to ask us to use our own powers of interpretation to know truth, he is supposed to interpret it for us and just tell us his opinions!
By Steve Rudd
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