Hopefully everyone good enough to read this blog has an idea what “sola scriptura” means. It is the idea that belief should rest on the written text of the Bible alone, and that things which are not mentioned in the Bible should be discarded from belief. Further, sola scriptura maintains that some things the Catholic Church puts forward for belief which are not explicitly explained in the Bible should not be accepted.
The most practical objection to sola scriptura is as follows:
Jesus Christ was not born with a book. The Church came first, that is, the community of believers which Jesus founded and left to His apostles and disciples to lead and govern. The writers of Sacred Scripture came from this body of believers. The reason Christians accepted the writings of Scripture was that the community of believers Jesus founded, the Church, attested to the truth of said Scripture. In other words, the reason we believe in Sacred Scripture is the Church tells us that it is true.
I would like to note another important point against the concept of “sola scriptura” that I think eludes most people. It is not about doctrine or substance of belief but about the practical obstacle to basing belief in scripture on scripture alone.
The great majority of people who lived on Earth at the time of Christ, and for the next several centuries after, were illiterate. If the Gideons had a time machine and went back to, say, 300 A.D. and started handing out Bibles, people wouldn’t be able to read them in any language.
How then could the Church base its entire belief system on scripture alone?
It was not until about the year 1440, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, that the Bible was able to be mass produced. Prior to this time men and women didn’t have access to printed Bibles. Books were written by hand and were very expensive. Those who chose to believe that Christ intended a belief in scripture alone ignore this tremendous practical obstacle. How could people base a belief on a book they were unable to possess, which they might not have been able to afford, and even if they could afford one, might not have been able to read?
Neither Jesus Christ nor any of His disciples are ever quoted as saying “believe only in this book”. Further, it was the Catholic Church which gathered all of the sacred texts and determined through the authority given to them by Christ and as guided by the Holy Spirit which books belonged in the Sacred Canon of Scripture.
To believe in sola scriptura would imply, then, that Christ’s revelation, which occurred in the years from approximately 0 – 33 AD, was not completed until Bibles were made available to everyone more than 1400 years later. The only way, then, that sola scriptura could have worked in a practical sense,is if scripture had been made available to everyone at the time of Christ’s Ascension.
This simply doesn’t hold water.