Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mejlina on Scripture and Tradition

The first paper for our blog conference was done by Mejlina Tjoa. What is the relationship of Scripture to tradition. Is tradition something that Christians should abhor as being of the letter and not of the Spirit (cf 2 Cor. 3:6)? In her paper entitled Scripture and Tradition, Mejlina tackles this issue and puts forward her case for the Reformed stance on this issue, which could be accessed here. An excerpt:

Sola Scriptura is the hallmark of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. It acknowledges the Scripture as sole infallible and supreme authority over all matters of faith and life, in contrast to the Roman Catholic conviction which accepts both Scripture and church tradition as the highest authority. Protestantism does not disregard and in fact still emphasizes the importance of church tradition. However it adopts quite a different view of the role of tradition from Roman Catholicism.

This paper attempts to introduce various views pertaining to the relationship between Scripture and tradition, especially how appealing to the authority of church tradition fits in with the Protestant concept of Sola Scriptura. Further, this paper will also study the role of the Holy Spirit in the students of the Scriptures, on how the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and an appeal to church tradition or church heritage with regards Bible interpretation, are harmonized. Finally, the limitation of tradition will be briefly explored for further thought.


Our reviewer is Rev. Jonah Tang, and his reviews can be read in the original Chinese here, or English here.

In her paper Scripture and Tradition, Mejlina properly analyzes the place and role of tradition in the early catholic (small ‘c’) churches, as well as explicate the point of contention between the 16th century Reformation and Roman Catholicism on this topic. The view of the Reformation is not about the rejection of tradition, but about defending the truth of Sola Scriptura and in so doing vigorously contend for the Truth, circumventing the control of papal Traditionalism. ...

Mejlina's paper and Jonah Tang's response are now opened for discussion.


PuritanReformed said...

Some brief comments:

the paper is indeed interesting. However, I do take issue with the depiction of the development of the Canon of Scripture. Although it can be argued that the Canon was more or less finalized during the 4th century AD, that there is ambiguity during the Medieval period regarding books like the Apocrypha certainly does not help this postulation of the athoritative declaration of the closing of the Canon happening in the 4th century AD.

Another point of concern I have is the manner in which this one source view of Scriptur and Tradition is presented. I would rather say that traditon functions a regulative role instead of having seconday authritative status, a point of contention which I wil certainly share with the secod paper to be presented on Wednesday (sorry for the leak).

That's all.

SPQR said...


The issue of Scripture and tradition is an important one. The survey by the author is a concise and good one in terms of the definitions and different views from an academic standpoint. However, as with good science, there are problems with the traditional understanding of "tradition" in Christianity (repetition deliberate).

I will preface these remarks with my bias: an American saved by grace of Christ alone not benefiting from an Asian perspective but quite familiar with Russian Orthodoxy (and saved out of Roman Catholicism).

(1) Tradition - in most cases in the NT, Jesus (and Paul) deal with the subject in a negative context. If someone desires, I can dig up a link with the references. (The only 2 references with positive connotations are Paul talking about the apostles' teachings - which we call the Holy Scriptures. So we are not "missing out" on what God has to offer "beyond" Scripture.)

That is not to say we ignore it completely. However, we need to be careful that (assuming we accept Scripture's charaterization of man as "total depraved", thus at risk to futile speculation) that that which is represented as the "Church's tradition" could be in conflict with God's clear and revealed will.

(2) "Tradition", in contrast with "Holy Scripture", is not monolithic. The Orthodox cannot agree on what exactly happens after death (though the church makes a lot of money from family members for "memorials for the dead").

(3) In many cases, we do not know what "tradition" really was. For example, look at the iconoclastic controversy within areas dominated by Orthodoxy. The Orthodox church itself vacillated between condemning, tolerating, and then enforcing icons as ways to commune with God.

Furthermore, we are at a great loss with few records of the teaching and practice of Bible believers outside of Constantinople and Rome. It is not true that there was one "Christian" church that broke into 2 (Byzantium - Orthodoxy, and Rome - Catholicism). We have a few writings from the Paulicians of Asia Minor and later Bogomils of modern Yugoslavia (who affirmed Sola Scriptura and denounced much of Orthodoxy!). St. Patrick was not a Catholic saint at all but a missionary rival that butted heads in different parts of Europe (another proponent of Sola Scriptura).

People who only read the Catholic characterizations of Waldenses and Albigenses (and Orthodox portrayals of Paulicians and "religious rationalists" in 19th Century) should give as much credence to these slanderous accounts as you should to the Chinese Communists or the Three Self Patriotic Movement criticizing the underground Chinese Christians. (Very little.)

To the extent a tradition can be justified by Scriptural practice, we should take heed of it. To the extent it does not violate but neither finds support, it is freedom for believer's conscience. To the extent it violates Scripture, out it goes.

One minor point: de facto it is not quite right to assert that Rome or the Orthodox assert "Prima Scriptura". One can see it in the Baltimore Catechism in the case of Rome - can send quote if someone truly desires it. In the case of Orthodoxy, Scripture is swallowed up with Orthodox traditions. In reality, tradition dictated by the power groups in Rome and Orthodoxy dominates Scripture. Ignore the academics and look at the reality practiced in these churches. (More so among Orthodox - their principles are not "law" driven, but more of a "pragmatism" or "convenience driven paradigm".)

May the Lord bless your conference.


Mejlina Tjoa said...

Wow, great comments. That opens up a pandora box, isn't it?

I heartily acknowledge the limitation of the paper and in fact, even if we all agree on the "Tradition 1" view asserted by the paper, we are still left with a lot of application issues like how in the first place we make choices about what constitute "Tradition 1".

I also agree that much of what has been established in history arose from practical needs of the time rather than in the vision to pass on the right tradition to future generations. And it turns out that later generations take them as their 'heritage', sometimes forgeting that these were neither uniformly agreed, nor were these stuffs arbitrarily summarised by academics in their leisure. But these were responses against what the church / influence groups of that time viewed as threats.

So yeah even what 'tradition' is, is not as clear cut as we wish, and different traditions have their own way of interpreting history and convincing arguments on how theirs is the true one that go back to the faith of the Apostles. On subscribing something as the 'true tradition', whilst it must involve deep examination, we cannot deny that eventually it does involve some level of faith as well.

That said, it appears that this is the way God designs learning process to be. The entire Church history, with all the good things and bad things, with all the lukewarmness and extremes, with all the unending back-and-forth changes on certain issues, tells us something about humans, about redeemed sinners / His Church, about the way He leads.

And looks like with all the ups and down, we are still going somewhere definite. At least, we believe God is leading us there. Meanwhile, we do need wisdom to discern and doses of grace to deal with all these differences. Welcome to the quest of truth in the world of relativity. =)

Beng said...

Wow. I found this to be very clearly written and useful. It puts tradition in its proper place - not to be relied on as a source of authority equal to scripture and, at the same time, not to be discarded like the baby with the bathwater.

Some random thoughts:

Old is definitely gold. This is why we talk about "good old" things.

The understanding of scriptural truth which has withstood the test of time is still the best and most reliable way to guard against new fangled theological ideas (heresies) which keep coming up to corrupt the pure gospel.

The problem is the constant felt need of men to come up with novel new ideas and perspectives in order to make a name for themselves, rather than simply to declare and expound old truths. So much so that many babes in Christ aren't even taught the old truths to begin with, but are fed with the "heresy du jour" from the time they are spiritually born, to lead astray even the elect (if that were possible).

Indeed, tradition (with a small "t") is God's gift to his church. It provides the doctrinal structural framework on which we can each build our individual understanding of scripture, as we study it. To paraphrase a popular quote, we can see spiritual truths clearly only because we are standing on the shoulders of the spiritual giants before us. The insightful commentaries and writings of those who came before us serve as bright lights to illuminate the truth of scripture so that we can more effectively mine its depths for ourselves.

I found useful the rule of interpretation set out by Vincent of Lerins: “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”, or “that
which has been believed everywhere, always and by all”. Catholicity,
antiquity and consensus as the criteria for Scripture interpretation.

The "witness of the Holy Spirit" is not merely to illumine our understanding of scripture. More importantly, I believe, he testifies to our hearts the veracity of what we are hearing or reading. He whispers to our hearts: "This is true!" when we read the scriptures - and we are enabled to believe it. Our souls resonate to the truth of scripture just as a wine glass vibrates when the right harmonic note is struck.

KIAT said...

We must guard against holding solo scriptura (Tradition 0) in the name of sola scriptura (Tradition I). Keith Mathison is right: “Protestantism cannot continue to operate under the individualistic principles of solo scriptura, or Protestantism as a branch of the true visible Church will eventually cease to exist” The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Idaho: Canon Press, 2001)

Let us respect the authority of the Confession of faith which has passed down to us through our spiritual fathers. We should be thankful for them rather than despise and oppose them. Respect their authority unless scripture teach otherwise.

“你 先 祖 所 立 的 地 界 , 你 不 可 挪 移” Proverbs 22:28

Hsusy said...

The papers are certainly thought provoking, but in my very humble opinion, a rather crucial part of the argument appear to be problematic. I agree that there are certain presuppositions associated with one's method of interpretation. However, what makes these presupposition valid? Is it the tradition that one holds in regards to the Scriptures or is it those presuppositions are the assertions of the Holy Scripture itself?

At the end of the day if I hold to the tradition that the Bible is to be interpreted in light of "the full humanity of inspired writing, the organic nature of the Scripture and the consistency of
God in all ages" what makes that tradition valid? The derived authority of my tradition, or the fact the Bible makes all of those claims about itself?

While I concede that everyone brings their culture and tradition with them shouldn't it be the case that my culture and tradition bows at the feet of the authority of the Bible itself instead of adopting the "t"radition which can be as uncertain as the "T"radition?

Grace be with you.

Beng said...


JI Packer's article on the issue (which Mejlina quotes) is instructive in answering your question.

You can find it here: (thank God for Google!)

He speaks of the danger of over-simplification, of the "facile antithesis" - in other words, reducing everything to "either-or", instead of understanding that both propositions may be true and valid.

To answer your question, then: What makes the presupposition valid is BOTH the tradition and the assertions of scripture, and what makes the tradition valid is the derived authority FROM scripture.

Or, as JI Packer himself puts it:

"The first and basic over-simplification consists simply of forgetting that, as our concept of biblical authority determines our hermeneutic in the manner described, so that concept itself is always, and necessarily, open to challenge from the biblical texts on which we bring our hermeneutics to bear."

A good rule of thumb for proving a tradition, really, would be simply the test of time. God, in his providence, will preserve that which is true, while that which is false will fade away. We see this principle at work in the wise advice given by Gamaliel to the Council (Acts 5:34-39). And we have seen it in action in the 500 years following the reformation. God WILL preserve his truth - for the sake of his elect!

PuritanReformed said...


thanks for sharing. I would guess that at the very least Eastern Orthodoxy professes Prima Scriptura. We cannot deal with the individual praxis of any one Orthodox Church and extrapolate that to the wider communion however.

CREDO500 said...

Dear all, am enjoying reading this mind stretching interaction.

Thanks Daniel for the opening comment that hit right on the matter. SPQR, your post has been exciting and encouraging, am looking forward to read more from you. Mejlina, I'm in total agreement with you, hopefully we can carry on the discussion. Beng, thanks for your sharing and clarification, as a rare breed in the Methodist like you, I once heard William Abraham calling the postmodern wesleyan in revisiting the roots of the second to the fourth centuries, without even mentioning the Augustinian contribution. Kiat, appreciate your chinese verse, in fact chinese comments are all welcome and appreciated too. HSusy, you’re right, that’s why we dare not allow sola scriptura theological method to slip into prima scriptura thelogical method. (At least that's the goal.)

Just a couple of quick thoughts from me:

Calvin focused on the internal witness of the Holy Spirit that assures the transmission of the text down through the ages, not the human efforts of the Catholic Church. According to the Institutes, he ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our judgement, but to subject our intellect and judgement to it as too transcendent for us to estimate.

No doubt to the single-sourced method which declares the Bible alone as the only source of our knowledge, while i would describes the Tradition as a definitive resources under the supreme judge of the authority of the Bible, including the Reformed Tradition, fair enough. (It’s the very reason I read the Bible in the first place.)

On the other hand, ‘biblicism’ is also a distinct issue among subjectivism and anthropocentrism, such as the naive evangelical and the fundamental christian while often left the reformation heritages ignored and unstudied. The assumption is that the Tradition includes historic creeds and confessions are all irrelevant. (will discuss this more later.)

The arrogance and/or amnesia of the modern churches should have overcame with those significant voices of the living dead, but not without examine. Sharing the quote from Pelikan's well-known dictum "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is
the dead faith of the living. "

Again, thanks for these very interesting comments from you all, and be sure to head over and check out JJ.Lim’s article tomorrow. Let us re-envisioning and re-energizing the old old tradition that is faithful to the Scripture of the Lord, and stand with the aposte Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:6“Do not go beyond what is WRITTEN.” With God’s help!

Good discussion indeed,

SPQR said...

One simple question, please: name one tradition without which Christ's church absolutely could not exist or function that:

(1) Does not find at least indirect support from Scriptures,


(2) Can be determined to have been revealed by God, not merely man's deduction, or opinion, apart from Scripture?

SPQR said...

Hey Puritan,

By the strict definition, yes, Orthodox would profess Prima Scriptura. However, in practice (and it is much more mystically/pragmatically driven), Scripture is used very occasionally. Tradition as defined by the "church" is dominant.

BTW the changes in policy toward icons all happened in Byzantium. Same church, contradictory views. The spiritual agenda lost out to political (change of Emperor from Leo to Helen) and economic (icons were big income earner for monasteries).

If you believe Calvin, spiritual should win out. Also, church fathers often contradicted one another. Rome and Byzantium disagreed even on which ones (or which parts of their opinions) were valid "traditions".

Hence, lots of skepticism is warranted regarding "church tradition" not backed by Holy Scripture.

Not against tradition, so long as it is backed by Scripture in some way (or at very least not in conflict - but then we should say "preference" not "tradition").

We should also not confuse our own culture with interpretation (rather using basic rules of historical grammatical, and understanding literary genre etc.), but more so in application to our contemporary context what God might have us do. (This is the toughest for me, and then to obey! :))


franas said...

(Part 2) During this Calvin500, it may be an opportune time to return to basic and ask the fundamental question if the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fulfill its own criteria, i.e., is Sola Scriptura itself biblical? I cannot find any biblical support for it. Most Protestants will proof-text with 2 Tim 3:16: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Make no mistake, we can all agree about the inspiration and sufficiency of the bible; however, what the bible does not say is that it ALONE is authority as an infallible rule of faith for the church. In fact, if we turn to 1 Tim 3:15, we read that is the CHURCH which is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The church, being the bride of Christ and like a mother for all believers, is given the authority to teach and discipline her children in the household. This is exactly what is prescribed in Matt 18:15-17 where the church is final arbiter and has the authority to ex-communicate a recalcitrant or obstinate sinner. The bible certainly does not propose the novel Protestant idea of comparing bible verses and if one disagrees, to go out and start a new church which one is agreeable with. It is Christ who instituted a church built upon Peter (Thou are Kepha (Peter, Rock), and upon this kepha (rock) I will build my church, Matt 16:18). It is this church which Christ demands of his followers: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). Where to find this church of Christ today? Is it Methodism with its typical splitter groups (a phenomenon of Protestantism) with diagonally opposite beliefs: Methodist Episcopal or Primitive Methodist or Wesleyan Methodist Connection or Congregational Methodist or Free Methodist or Reformed Methodist or Church of the Nazarene or Salvation Army or United Brethren in Christ? Highly unlikely especially considering its founding in the 18th century after Christ (AD). Maybe it is better to ask the “Church Fathers” who lived and wrote during the first centuries of Church history like St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386 AD: "(which) is called catholic, then, because it extends over the whole world, from end to end of the earth, and because it teaches universally and infallibly each and every doctrine which must come to the knowledge of men ... And if you ever are visiting in cities, do not inquire simply where the house of the Lord is --- for the others, sects of the impious, attempt to call their dens 'houses of the Lord' --- nor ask merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the name peculiar to this holy Church" (Catechetical Lecture 18). Or St. Irenaeus of Lyons: "With this church (of Rome), on account of its more primordial authority ("propter potentiorem principalitatem") all other churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (Adversus Haereses, III,2, d.180). This is the same church on whose authority we received the canon of the books of the Christian bible in the 4th century. This is a part of Sacred Tradition which author Mejlina incorrectly equates with man’s traditions within various Protestant denominations and sects. Sacred Tradition is the “Deposit of Faith” entrusted and safe-guarded by apostolic succession (2 Tim 1:14). Sacred Tradition also came in two strains as explained in 2 Thess 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (that is, oral and written traditions).” By subscribing to Sola Scriptura (Bible or Written Tradition Alone), Protestants are in fact unbiblical Christians!

franas said...

(Part 1) I must say that I always scrunch in pain when I see earnest and sincere Christian advocating the doctrine of Sola Scriptura as if it is gospel truth. Sola Scriptura or Bible Alone is indeed the main tenet of Protestantism. In truth, it is a feeble attempt to replace the divinely established authority of the NT Church in existence since the beginning of Christianity. Not surprisingly and not unlike every Dick and Harry Protestant Christian with his or her peculiar version of the gospel from a cafeteria choice of “truths”, this doctrine of Sola Scriptura regenerates itself as frequently with each manifestation being crafted by a presenter’s personal agenda. Without a recognized authoritative voice in Protestantism, there’s simply no unanimity of anything. The “Single-Source” theory is essentially just another Protestant attempt to explain Sola Scriptura among many other propositions. Here is an example of the biblical teaching office of the church being reduced and replaced by a parallel magisterium of the theologians or scholars. Even here, as the author Mejlina would admit, this “manner of explanation has its weakness and opens up a lot more questions … difficult to determine the definition of orthodox tradition, or which tradition is faithful to historical Christianity.” So where do one go from here?

Hsusy said...

Surprisingly, the poster franas actually confirms what my initial hunch with the way the articles argues for Sola-Scriptura. I would respectfully ask Beng, how would you respond to franas and his appeal to "T"radition, when right or wrong, he is arguing in the exact same way as you have for the validity of your "t"radition, that his has stood up to the test of time.

Old does not always mean gold, you can be a very very old error.

Ultimately it is not what my "t"radition happens to get right, it is what has the word of God said. To argue that Sola Scriptura requires the regulation of derived authority of any human tradition is to argue backwards.

I am not saying that "tradition" does not play a part, but if the Scripture does not have inherit authority apart from tradition, big T or not, is to say the Sola Scriptura stands upon the shoulder of something else, when it is supposed to be the foundation.

To franas:

1) It's always a huge leap for anyone who tries to draw a straight theological blood line from to any modern denomination, however ancient they appear to be. Assuming you are arguing for the authority of the bishop of Rome and the councils of the Roman Catholic Church, it is well established that the RCC and the Pope have taught against the plain teaching of the Bible, and in light of that, they have no rightful claims, theological, spiritual or otherwise to the rightful inheritance of apostolic authority.

2) While the church serves as pillars of truth "supporting" the claims of Scripture, it is not the infallible authority OVER Scripture. Even in the verses you quoted, the implication is that a Church or individual is only as authoritative as their faithfulness in obedience to the Scriptures.

3)Even the most cursory survey of the major church councils and teaching of the Popes, the RCC are yet to provide for us, a consistent, non contradictory "Tradition" that is pure and free from the ill effects of Sola Scriptura.

Space prevents me from going any further.

To all my brothers and sisters: I only offer my passionate opinions for the sake of edifying the brethren and in defense of the truth of God. I apologize if I sound short, I do not wish to come across as angry or arrogant. Allow me to say that I love you all and keep up the good fight.

Grace be with you

franas said...

To Hsusy:

This is exactly the type of untruth that’s has been passed around by Protestants either maliciously or recklessly without any serious attempt to study history or the actual teachings of the Catholic Church and the counciliar documents of the ecumenical councils. Your statement that “it is well established that the RCC and the Pope have taught against the plain teaching of the Bible” is plainly superfluous. Can you provide ONE single documented example? I’m not necessarily championing for Catholicism but is indeed challenging everyone here to examine some of the very presumptuous Protestant tenets like Sola Scriptura and Sola Fidei. So I asked, is Sola Scriptura itself biblical? Did the early Christians believe in Sola Scriptura? Or even better, did Christ subscribe to the notion of Sola Scriptura? What we do not want is an extraneous biblical conclusion like “… the implication is that a Church or individual is only as authoritative as their faithfulness in obedience to the SCRIPTURES.” How did you get that “implication” from the context of 1 Tim 3:15?

In Christ,

Hsusy said...

To franas:


This is one of the recent announcements by the current Pope. Indulgences, Mary Worship and Purgatory, all in one go. All of these concepts are still found in the Roman Catholic catechism, and not a single shred of Biblical evidence.

In Context, 1 Tim 3:15 should at the very least be taken with verse 14:

"14I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth."

You take this verse as to say that the church and her tradition validate the truth of God, because the church is described as "a pillar and buttress of the truth". But the question here is, does the church and her tradition serves the truth or is it the only way around? That as the church is obedient to the teaching of Scripture, the church then serves as support to the truth she proclaims. The RCC says that there is no truth without the church, we protestant say that without the truth there is no church. Starting from verse 14, here Paul is instructing Timothy on how to conduct himself inside the church. The church is described as the household of God, and as a support to the truth, but what is it that is going to inform Timothy on the proper conduct inside the church? The church traditions? Why didn't Paul ask Timothy to turn to the church for answers? Instead He says to Timothy, that what He has written, the scriptures, is to be the measure of his conduct in the household of faith.

While the church is entrusted with the truth of God, she is not the source. The Church doesn't decide what the truth is, the truth of God in scripture determines the legitimacy of the church.

I think this discussion have deviated enough from where we started, if you would like to continue this conversation, we could do this via email. (It's on my website) I don't think using this space to discuss material not directly related to this article is fair to the others who are participating.

Grace be with you.

franas said...

(Part 1) To Hsusy:

I thank you for responding with specific questions instead of blank statements which oftentimes are full of misinformation. You have chosen to raise some rather complex topics (Indulgences, Worship of Mary, Purgatory). For a start, I will just deal with Indulgences. You can just let me know if you still want me to respond to the other two topics.

Most Protestants will assume that Catholic doctrines are either unbiblical or even unchristian. Nothing is further than the truth. Yes, some of the doctrines will not be as explicit in the bible (just like Trinity) but they will NEVER contradict or be contrary to the bible. Catholics do not read the bible by proof-texting but employ the whole bible with the aid of Sacred Tradition in the proper understanding of it. The bible is the family book of the Catholic Church, and I dare suggest that the Church is probably wiser than you and me.

Indulgences: You could have spared the trouble by simply looking in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec 1478. It is considered an infallible teaching which was affirmed by the ecumenical Council of Constance and defined at Trent and explained by Pope Paul VI in the encylical Indulgentarium Doctrina.

An easy-to-understand definition of Indulgences is “what we receive when the Church lessens the TEMPORAL penalties to which we may be subject even though our sins have been forgiven.” When someone repents, God removes his guilt and any “eternal” punishment (“Since … we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God”, Rom 5:9); however, some “temporal” penalties may still be due if we do not have a perfect contrition in this life which will then subject us to the final purging by fire before we can stand in the holy presence of God: "If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:14–15; here is also a good biblical teaching about the reality of Purgatory). The examples of “temporal punishments” in the bible are abundant. Moses (who is clearly one of the saved, Matt 17:1-5), was told that he would suffer a temporal penalty: “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Num 20:12; cd. 27:12-14). Prophet Nathan was sent by God to confront David about his adultery. David repented but was told that “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die” (2 Sam 12:13-14) as well as for other temporal punishments (See 2 Sam 12:7-12 for a list).

As Christians, we must also realize that, while Christ paid the price for our sins before God, he did not relieve our obligation to repair what we have done. So if you steal someone’s car, you have to give it back; it isn’t enough just to repent. God’s forgiveness (and man’s) does not include letting you keep the stolen car!

God blesses some people as a reward to others: God rewarded the childless patriarch Abraham after he fought a battle for God: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars … so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:1-6). God further told Abraham he would have nations and kings come from him, that God would make a covenant with his descendants, and that they would inherit the promised land (Gen 17:6-8). All these blessings came to Abraham’s descendants as God’s reward to him. In NT, Paul tells us that “as regards election (the Jews) are beloved for the sake of their forefathers’ (Rom 11.28).

franas said...

(Part 2, Indulgences)

God remits temporal penalties suffered by some as a reward to others: When God blesses one person as a reward to someone else, sometimes the specific blessing he gives is a reduction of the temporal penalties to which the first person is subject. For example, in Soloman’s case, God lessened the temporal punishment in two ways: by deferring the removal of the kingdom until the days of Soloman’s son and by leaving one tribe (Benjamin) under Judah. (1 Kgs 11:11-13). Morever, God was clear that he did it not for Soloman’s sake, but “for the sake of your father David.”

God remits temporal punishment punishments through the Church: The bible tells us that God gave the authority to forgive sins “to men” (Matt 9:8) and to Christ’s ministers in particular: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:21-23). Christ also promised his Church the power to bind and loose on earth, saying, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18). As the context makes clear, binding and loosing cover Church discipline which involves administering and removing temporal penalties (like ex-communication from fellowship). This use of a fortiori argument is common of Christ and Paul (Matt 7:11, 10-25, 12:12, Lk 11:13, Rom 11:12, 24, 1 Cor 6:3, etc. , etc.

God blesses dead Christians as a reward to living Christians: A good example is in 2 Maccabees (unfortunately, one of the seven books of the bible which Protestants removed without authority) where Judah and his men “turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out” (2 Macc 12:42). The sin being “wholly blotted out” refers to its temporal penalties in context.

So a good Protestant will ask: Don’t indulgences duplicate or even negate the work of Christ? Hopefully by now, many of you will have grasped that indulgences apply only to temporal penalties and not to eternal ones. In Paul’s language: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Paul spoke of completing what was “lacking” in Christ’s sufferings. Does Paul have a case of amnesia or madness? Suffice to say here that if we ignore the fact of indulgences, we neglect what Christ does through us, and we fail to recognize the value of what he has done in us.

(Credits: I borrowed heavily from an article written by James Akin, A Primer on Indulgences. Mr. Akin is a convert to Catholicism. You can read his biography at

SPQR said...

RE: Indulgences/Franas,

Perfect illustration of the problem of adding to God's Word (Rev. 22:18 - "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.")

Bible: Christ is enough. Manmade religion: Christ plus (in reality: Christ not enough).

With all due respect, but this is a conference on Calvin (whose source is God's Word). Below we will let him answer (and supply a link to the whole chapter):

"For how could the blood of Christ be more shamefully profaned than by denying its sufficiency for the remission of sins, for reconciliation and satisfaction, unless its defects, as if it were dried up and exhausted, are supplemented from some other quarter? Peter's words are: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins," (Acts 10: 43); but indulgences bestow the remission of sins through Peter, Paul, and the Martyrs. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," says John, (1Jn 1: 7). Indulgences make the blood of the martyrs an ablution of sins. "He has made him to be sin (i.e. a satisfaction for sin) for us who knew no sin," says Paul, (2Co 5: 21), "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." "

Calvin, Institutes, Book III, Ch. V, Sec. III, Pt. 2


franas said...

To Hsusy:

About 1 Tim 3:15, I think it is important to let the bible speaks for itself without bringing one's particular slant of theology to re-intepret the message. Here, it is very clear that it is the "church" which is called the pillar and buttress of the truth. I know you want to say that it is the "bible" but the verse does not say that. Now, I'm confident that we can actually agree almost everything about the bible but just not reading or inserting something where it does not belong. Yes, the church is NOT the source of the truth and she is NOT above the bible. But there's also more said in the bible ...

In Christ,

franas said...


I’m not going to start throwing bible verses at each other because it is not going to solve anything as attested by the 34,000 Protestant denominations and countless house churches all claiming to read the same bible and being led by the Holy Spirit while all bickering against each other and holding on to diagonally conflicting doctrines. Isn’t that a clue that maybe the “experiment” of Protestantism is not going so well? I wholeheartedly agree with Hsusy that “it is always a huge leap for anyone who tries to draw a straight theological blood line” so if anything, I think the onus is upon Protestants to show why they should depart from the doctrines of the universal church which were good enough for our forefathers and first Christians for 1600 years. The Holy Spirit must either had fallen off to sleep or that Christ was very wrong because the “gates of hell” did prevail against His church. All Christians should be mindful of the strong warning of Christ in talking about the Church he founded in Matt 16:18: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects you, rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). Ask yourself who founded your church? A man or Christ? By whose authority that permits anyone to set up “shop” anytime and wherever one wants to. Demonstrate that it’s the right and proper thing to do in accordance with the mandates of Christ clearly laid out in your faithful bible.

I’m sorry that you didn’t appear to even attempt to understand “Indulgences” in the light of the Scripture. Yes, there were incidents of abuse of indulgences and Martin Luther was courageous to draw attention to it. As long as this world is imperfect and there are sinners, there will always be Christians who will fail to live up to their faith. But what constituted “abuses” certainly did not mean that the doctrine of Indulgences is not true. Otherwise, we risk throwing out the “baby with the bath water.” Same token, many Christians abuse bible verses by proof-texting but does it make the word of God any less true? The incidents of the abuse of indulgences were rather localized. The local parish Catholic church of Germany was NOT the universal church. Unless you can positively identified the OFFICIAL teachings of the Catholic Church to support the abuse of indulgences, you cannot dismiss this church summarily.

Now, I really still want to know: Is Sola Scriptura even biblical?

SPQR said...

To Franas,

Calvin was French. Pope Leo did not raise money just from Germans to build St. Peter's Cathedral. Indulgences are not just an accident, whether you wish to recognize history or not. Rome taught them and will answer.

You are not arguing with Protestants, but with Jesus: "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." (Mk. 7:8)

Either God at His Word or test Him at the Day of Judgment with traditions invented by contradicting opinions of men - Popes (even 11 year olds), councils (ask the Orthodox their thoughts on Augustine - which ones do we believe?).

Your count of 34k denominations (with the "unity" of Rome) is somewhat contrary to the facts - see the following article:

I sign off with Paul's words to Timothy (personally meant for you in peace, but I can do nothing for you - only God can):
"Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do their will."


franas said...


The point is the incidents of abuse of indulgences were localized and not the practice of the universal Church. I used Germany because of the connection with Martin Luther. I challenge you to show me from a good history book that it was an OFFICIAL teaching of Rome to CONDONE the practice of the abuses. Just because Pope Leo asked for donations to help build St. Peter's did not make him responsible for someone in a far away place who took upon his- or herself to do fund raising by some ungodly means. Certainly, most people here will agree that it did not make it an OFFICIAL DOCTRINE of the Church. Imagine if we should let Christ take all the blame for all the nasty and ungodly deeds committed by some of his unfaithful followers here on earth.

I know it may be hard for a Protestant like you to think of a living visible church beyond your own closet religion based on a book. Since you are so fixiated with your book, show me from your book that it teaches Sola Scriptura. Even without subscribing to your view of Sola Scriptura, I am at least willing to try to show (defend) from scripture that the teaching of the practice of indulgences is biblical. Yea, while you are at it, show me that it is practised by Jesus, the Apostles and the first Christians (Gnostics and illiterate Christians need not apply).

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Mejlina and other CREDOs,

Here is my comment over this article:

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

" ... if canonical scripture cannot exist or understood except through tradition (for eg. the apostolic tradition and the regula fidei, p.1-3), then the essay fails to distinguish the former from the latter. A way to do that is to recognize the scripture as the 'written and canonized tradition' while all other channels of religious knowledge as 'POST-written-and-canonized-tradition"

How is this possible? The living word of God first came to us in the person Christ, then through apostolic teaching and only then a part of it was written down in scripture. Christ and Sacred Tradition (Apostolic Teaching) preceeded New Testament by a long shoot!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi franas,

I'm not sure what is the difference that you wanted to point out between what you said and what I wrote.

Yet there is some nuanced needed to be made on your claim that "(Apostolic Teaching) preceeded New Testament by a long shoot!"

The assumption is that the Apostolic Tradition is stagnant after it has been developed by the apostles prior to the writing of the New Testament.

Yet there is no evidents for such stagnation. Instead what we have is a continuous development even during the period when the four gospels were being written. A comparison over the differences among the four, particularly among the three synoptic gospels, is a good case.

And given that the writing of some gospel materials, say Luke-Acts and John, was done later than other New Testament writings such as Paul's letters, then we have evidents that theological development even among the apostles and their cohort still going on during the time the some of the New Testament documents were written, and before the closing of the canon.

Hence I don't see there is stagnation as you have assumed in the Apostolic Tradition prior to the writing and canonization of the New Testament.

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

I'm simply pointing out that it's logically incorrect to label apostolic teaching or Tradition, which preceded the NT bible, as POST- NT bible.

Are you suggesting that the totality of this apostolic teaching through development and theological reflections was eventually reduced to NT bible only? I think not. This apostolic teaching was first passed on both by "word of mouth" and "letter" (2 Thess 2:15). The bible is SILENT as to what happened to this two strains of "traditions" but John would remind us that NOT everything concerning Christ was written down (Jn 21:25).

BTW, excuse my ignorance but where in the world is Assam Laksa? God's abundant blessing on your formation at the seminary.

In Christ,

Sze Zeng said...

To franas,

Yes, I'm suggesting that the apostolic teaching as we know and materially possess it now is confined only in the NT.

I'm sure there are many floating words around in the era of the apostles but not so now. So it is meaningless for us (21st centurians) to say that there exist non-written apostolic teaching which existed in the times of the first apostles (1st century) but not existing now (21st century). For all that we (21st centurians) now know materially existed have been transmitted to us through the NT, and perhaps partially through the subsequent apostolic fathers up until the 2nd century.

Given the reason here, I don't see my label as logically incorrect.

Assam Laksa is a famous food in Penang, a state in Malaysia.

Thank you for your comment and wishes.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Christ and Sacred Tradition (Apostolic Teaching) preceeded New Testament by a LONG (emphasis mine) shoot!"

Really? The Revelation of St. John was written at most in 96 AD. That is only some 60 years after the Ascension of Our Lord. The entire NT was written within at the very most 100 years. Remember the authors were either APOSTLES or SECRETARIES of the Apostles.

Augustinian Successor said...

"I'm simply pointing out that it's logically incorrect to label apostolic teaching or Tradition, which preceded the NT bible, as POST- NT bible."

Sze Zeng only referred to Tradition as POST-New Testament, not apostolic teaching.

Augustinian Successor said...


Officially, Roman Church has a skewed understanding of tradition. Tradition means as passing on (paradosis), as you know. As Sze Zeng has said, tradition as materially understood is contained in the NT. Thus, tradition properly understood functions as FORMS of the Faith, rather than substance of the faith.

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

"I'm suggesting that the apostolic teaching as we know and materially possess it now is confined only in the NT"

The bible is SILENT about it so you cannot be too sure.

"For all that we (21st centurians) now know materially existed have been transmitted to us through the NT, and perhaps partially through the subsequent apostolic fathers up until the 2nd century"

I challenge you to examine the Apostolic Fathers and see if they were closer to Catholicism or Protestants in doctrines. Don't use the truncated version of the Apostolic Fathers written by Protestants for Protestants. You may be in for a shock. The famous Catholic convert (from Anglicanism) John Henry Cardinal Newman has this to say:

"To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant"

In Christ,

Sze Zeng said...

To franas,

First I'm not interested to enter into the 'Roman Catholicism versus Protestantism' debate, as I see this as unnecessary, wrong-headed, and unconstructive.

Second, the 'existent of material apostolic tradition' is not a matter of infallibility of the scripture. Hence whether the scripture is silent or not, it has no relevance to our recognition and evidential procurement of non-written apostolic tradition.

Thus, your notion that the scripture doesn't record or suggest that unwritten apostolic tradition is preserved, and hence we cannot say that there is none is an argument from silent on one hand and a 'non sequitur' on the other.

My resources of the apostolic fathers writings are from Michael W. Holmes' The Apostolic Fathers, 3rd ed. The book is a compilation of ALL writings of the apostolic fathers. It's not even an anthology. It's a compilation. That means there is least, if not none, "Protestant truncation" in the texts. And besides, this compilation is recognized and highly recommended by Roman Catholic scholars like Carolyn Osiek and Clayton Jefford. Both are distinguished Catholic scholars in their own respect. Take Carolyn Osiek as an example, she was a president of the Catholic Biblical Association, an Catholic association most renowned in the Biblical scholarship field.

I don't know why do you indulge so much in the Protestantism versus Roman Catholicism debate, but drawing evaluation primarily based on labels is at best confused, and at worst, an 'ad hominem'.

Augustinian Successor said...

I challenge you to examine the Apostolic Fathers and see if they were closer to Catholicism or Protestants in doctrines. Don't use the truncated version of the Apostolic Fathers written by Protestants for Protestants. You may be in for a shock. The famous Catholic convert (from Anglicanism) John Henry Cardinal Newman has this to say:

"To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant"

In all seriousness, John Henry Newman was THIRD rate theologian.

Antithesis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

"In all seriousness, John Henry Newman was THIRD rate theologian"

Now that's not necessary. You don't want to get me started with Luther and Calvin.

To Sze Zeng:

My apology if you think that I am engaging in polemics. Far from it, my original question was:

"During this Calvin500, it may be an opportune time to return to basic and ask the fundamental question if the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fulfill its own criteria, i.e., is Sola Scriptura itself biblical?"

As a student of the Truth, I hope you will take sometime to investigate the important question. The Church Fathers will certainly be very helpful there. I must also move on from here so take care.

In Christ,

Sze Zeng said...

To franas,

Perhaps due to the fact that I do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, there is a natural tendency for you to rope me into the category of Protestant who holds on to 'Sola Scriptura'.

I regard Sola Scriptura as problematic not only because of its historical baggages, but also its theological implication in theological discourse, and its detrimental application in the wider discourse of epistemology (an example is seen in the last paragraph of my response to Mejlina's essay).

On the other hand, I do see many problems in Roman Catholicism's public teachings as well. Yet don't see this as another "Protestantism versus Roman Catholicism" attempt. It is not. As recounted by Stephen Jay Gould's own encounter with an English Jesuit who remarked to him that the internal dialogs happening within the Roman Catholic Church, ""is one gigantic debating society". Papal pronouncements may debar further official and public disagreement, but the internal dialogue never abates." (Rock of Ages, 71).

P/S: I have a copy of Robert A. Sungenis' magisterial Not By Scripture Alone.

Augustinian Successor said...


Seriously, John Henry Newman was a THIRD rate theologian. He failed miserably in his attempt to reconcile Tridentine Catholicism with the 39 Articles in Tract 90. That is just one example. His Development of Doctrine is gross. From A, a doctrine can actually evolved to NOT-A.

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

"Seriously, John Henry Newman was a THIRD rate theologian. He failed miserably in his attempt to reconcile Tridentine Catholicism with the 39 Articles in Tract 90"

What do you expect? Newman was at least honest that he could not reconcile the existence of the Church of England with historical Catholicism. He had enough humility and integrity to return home to mother Church in obedience to his Master Christ, in the quest for Truth.

In Christ,

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

You continue to be open to the Holy Spirit and He will guide you into all truths. Robert Sungenis is a start.

To Antithesis:

"Hey, getting to know you ... errrr ... what kinda things you do on off days, off and on? Like games/sports/music/kidz/family?

You are Catholic, are you? Priest or laity?"

I "happened" upon here because I was invited by a friend. I'm just an average lay Catholic who is willing to explain the faith when called upon (1 Pet 3:15). I will construct a proper profile for myself later ;))

I need to return to your wonderful blog and read more. Your passion is properly placed, unlike some of the unruly characters here who have demonstrated no regard for reason, history and authority.

In Christ,

Sze Zeng said...

To franas,

Same to your quest for truth.

Robert Sungenis' book is a "good work", but I doubt if that is a "good start."

My disagreement with 'sola scriptura' is not from a Roman Catholicism' perspective but the enterprises of epistemology studies, doctrinal criticism, and most importantly a post-Reformation hindsight.

Augustinian Successor said...

"What do you expect? Newman was at least honest that he could not reconcile the existence of the Church of England with historical Catholicism. He had enough humility and integrity to return home to mother Church in obedience to his Master Christ, in the quest for Truth."

No. Newman's pride made him pervert to Rome. Remember: Newman was a THIRD rate theologian.

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

"My disagreement with 'sola scriptura' is not from a Roman Catholicism' perspective but the enterprises of epistemology studies, doctrinal criticism, and most importantly a post-Reformation hindsight"

It's more basic than that. Ask if Sola Scriptura is biblical, if Christ taught Sola Scriptura and if the first Christians and Church Fathers believed in Sola Scriptura? We already know that it's an unworkable proposition based on the experience of Protestantism.

Sze Zeng said...

To franas,

Christ didn't taught many things, didn't taught most of what I know, and he didn't taught you to ask the specific question whether Sola Scriptura is biblical.

Honestly I can't help but to see your pegging of Protestantism as a failed system as, to put it mildly, plain.

Augustinian Successor said...

The early Church and Church Fathers confessed sola Scriptura.

This is why we have the CREEDS in the first place. The dogmatic pronouncements of the Magisterium is an ABERRATION.

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

"Christ didn't taught many things, didn't taught most of what I know, and he didn't taught you to ask the specific question whether Sola Scriptura is biblical"

Really? Whose is Master and calling the shots? Something so basic in Protestantism must be at least evidenced from scripture. Or you Protestants simply just assumed TOO MUCH.

To Augustinian Successor:

"The early Church and Church Fathers confessed sola Scriptura"

I am still waiting for the pudding. (Do it in context otherwise we are wasting time.)

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

The Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the holy catholic and apostolic church." Where is "I believe in Sola Scriptura" or anything to that effect?

Augustinian Successor said...

"The Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the holy catholic and apostolic church." Where is "I believe in Sola Scriptura" or anything to that effect?"

And the Catholic Church is the Roman Church?

The Catholic Church is a creature of the Gospel/Word. No Word, no world. No Word, no church.

I BELIEVE is a RESPONSE to the WORD of God. The Creeds summarise the basic teachings of the WORD. THIS is SOLA Scriptura.

Augustinian Successor said...

Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura:


See how UN-Catholic the Roman Church is?

Augustinian Successor said...


We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith. (Adv. H. 3:1)

Read more diligently that gospel which is given to us by the apostles; and read more diligently the prophets, and you will find every action and the whole doctrine of our Lord preached in them. (Adv. H. 4:66)

Augustinian Successor said...


They that are ready to spend their time in the best things will not give over seeking for truth until they have found the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves. (Stromata 7:16:3)
ORIGEN (185?-252)

In which (the two Testaments) every word that appertains to God may be required and discussed; and all knowledge may be understood out of them. But if anything remain which the Holy Scripture does not determine, no other third Scripture ought to be received for authorizing any knowledge or doctrine; but that which remains we must commit to the fire, that is, we will reserve it for God. For in this present world God would not have us to know all things. (Orig. in Lev., hom. 5, 9:6)

We know Jesus Christ is God, and we seek to expound the words which are spoken, according to the dignity of the person. Wherefore it is necessary for us to call the Scriptures into testimony; for our meanings and enarrations, without these witnesses, have no credibility. (Tractatus 5 in Matt.)

No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures. (Tract. 26 in Matt.)

As all gold, whatsoever it be, that is without the temple, is not holy; even so every notion which is without the divine Scripture, however admirable it may appear to some, is not holy, because it is foreign to Scripture. (Hom. 25 in Matt.)

Consider how imminent their danger is who neglect to study the Scriptures, in which alone the discernment of this can be ascertained. (in Rom. 10:16)

Augustinian Successor said...


Whence comes this tradition? Does it descend from the Lord’s authority, or from the commands and epistles of the apostles? For those things are to be done which are there written. ... If it be commanded in the gospels or the epistles and Acts of the Apostles, then let this holy tradition be observed. (Ep. 74 ad Pompeium)


There is one God, whom we do not otherwise acknowledge, brethren, but out of the Holy Scriptures. For as he that would possess the wisdom of this world cannot otherwise obtain it than to read the doctrines of the philosophers; so whosoever of us will exercise piety toward God cannot learn this elsewhere but out of the Holy Scriptures. Whatsoever, therefore, the Holy Scriptures do preach, that let us know, and whatsoever they teach, that let us understand. (Hip. tom. 3, Bibliotheque Patrium, ed. Colonna)


The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth. (Orat. adv. Gent., ad cap.)

The Catholic Christians will neither speak nor endure to hear any thing in religion that is a stranger to Scripture; it being an evil heart of immodesty to speak those things which are not written. (Exhort. ad Monachas)

Augustinian Successor said...

ST. AMBROSE OF MILAN* (340?-396)

How can we use those things which we do not find in the Holy Scriptures? (Ambr. Offic., 1:23)

I read that he is the first, I read that he is not the second; they who say he is the second, let them show it by reading. (Ambr. Offic., in Virginis Instit. 11)


O emperor! I admire your faith, which desires only according to those things that were written. ... You seek the faith, O emperor. Hear it then, not from new writings, but from the books of God. Remember that it is not a question of philosophy, but a doctrine of the gospel. (Ad Constant. Augus. 2:8:2)


Let a man be persuaded of the truth of that alone which has the seal of the written testimony. (De Anima et Resurrectione, 1)

Augustinian Successor said...


Not even the least of the divine and holy mysteries of the faith ought to be handed down without the divine Scriptures. Do not simply give faith to me speaking these things to you except you have the proof of what I say from the divine Scriptures. For the security and preservation of our faith are not supported by ingenuity of speech, but by the proofs of the divine Scriptures. (Cat. 4)


[The Scripture], like a safe door, denies an entrance to heretics, guarding us in safety in all things we desire, and not permitting us to be deceived. ...Whoever uses not the Scriptures, but comes in otherwise, that is, cuts out for himself a different and unlawful way, the same is a thief. (Homily 59, in Joh. 2:8)

Formerly it might have been ascertained by various means which was the true church, but at present there is no other method left for those who are willing to discover the true church of Christ but by the Scriptures alone. And why? Because heresy has all outward observances in common with her. If a man, therefore, be desirous of knowing the true church, how will he be able to do it amid so great resemblance, but by the Scriptures alone? Wherefore our Lord, foreseeing that such a great confusion of things would take place in the latter days, ordered the Christians to have recourse to nothing but the Scriptures.

The man of God could not be perfect without the Scriptures. [Paul says to Timothy:] “You have the Scriptures: if you desire to learn anything, you may learn it from them.” But if he writes these things to Timothy, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, how much more must we think these things spoken to us. (Hom. 9 in 2 Tim. 1:9)

It is absurd, while we will not trust other people in pecuniary affairs, but choose to reckon and calculate for ourselves, that in matters of far higher consequence we should implicitly follow the opinions of others, especially as we possess the most exact and perfect rule and standard by which to regulate our several inquiries: I mean the regulation of the divine laws. I, therefore, could wish that all of you would reject what this or that man says, and that you would investigate all these things in the Scriptures. (Hom. 13, 4:10 ad fin. in 2 Cor.)

Augustinian Successor said...


It is the part of a devilish spirit to think any thing to be divine that is not in the authority of the Holy Scriptures. (Ep. Pasch. 2)

ST. JEROME* (342?-420)

The church of Christ, possessing churches in all the world, is united by the unity of the Spirit, and has the cities of the law, the prophets, the gospels, and the apostles. She has not gone forth from her boundaries, that is, from the Holy Scriptures. (Comm. in Micha. 1:1)

Those things which they make and find, as it were, by apostolical tradition, without the authority and testimony of Scripture, the word of God smites. (ad Aggai 1)

As we deny not those things that are written, so we refuse those things that are not written. That God was born of a virgin we believe, because we read it; that Mary did marry after she was delivered we believe not, because we do not read it. (Adv. Helvidium)


In those things which are clearly laid down in Scripture, all those things are found which pertain to faith and morals. (De Doct. Chr. 2:9)

Whatever you hear from them [the Scriptures], let that be well received by you. Whatever is without them refuse, lest you wander in a cloud. (De Pastore, 11)

All those things which in times past our ancestors have mentioned to be done toward mankind and have delivered unto us: all those things also which we see and deliver to our posterity, so far as they pertain to the seeking and maintaining true religion, the Holy Scripture has not passed over in silence. (Ep. 42)

Whatever our Saviour would have us read of his actions and sayings he commanded his apostles and disciples, as his hands, to write. (De Consensu Evang. 1:ult.)

Let them [the Donatists] demonstrate their church if they can, not by the talk and rumor of the Africans; not by the councils of their own bishops; not by the books of their disputers; not by deceitful miracles, against which we are cautioned by the word of God, but in the prescript of the law, in the predictions of the prophets, in the verses of the Psalms, in the voice of the Shepherd himself, in the preaching and works of the evangelists; that is, in all canonical authorities of the sacred Scriptures. (De Unit. Eccl. 16)

Augustinian Successor said...


That which the Holy Scriptures have not said, by what means should we receive and account it among those things that are true? (Glaphyrarum in Gen. 2)


By the Holy Scriptures alone am I persuaded. (Dial. 1, Atrept.)

I am not so bold as to affirm anything which the sacred Scripture passes in silence. (Dial. 2, Asynchyt.)

We ought not to seek those things that are passed in silence, but rest in the things which are written. (in Gen. Q. 45)

ST. JOHN OF DAMASCUS (675?-749?)

We receive and acknowledge and reverence all things which are delivered in the law, the prophets, the apostles and evangelists, and we seek after nothing beyond these. (de Fid. Ortho. 1:1:1)

Augustinian Successor said...

Of course, scholars say that the phrase, 'sola Scriptura' came into popular currency within the Scholastic circles in the late medieval period of which Thomas Aquinas was the foremost theologian.

franas said...

To Sze Zeng:

"Honestly I can't help but to see your pegging of Protestantism as a failed system as, to put it mildly, plain"

Forgive my directness: 34,000 denominations and still counting, each with conflicting and diagonally opposing doctrines. What do you call that? An invisible church with legions of Beelzebub? Give every Me-Jesus with a verse and what do you have? Even more anarchy.

Maybe it's time to ask if everything is so? Ask your ONLY rabbi, teacher and master - Christ. You went against 1600 years of Christianity with strange doctrines like Sola Scriptura and Sola Fidei. Heresies are bad theologies which breed errors which kill the souls. Eternal Security, Double Predestination, Health and Wealth Gospel, and the list goes on and on.! Even Martin Luther found out soon enough to deplore how "every milkmaid and farmhand" now thought they could interpret scripture correctly: "Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is the same as it signifies?" (Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7, p, 391).

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

"I BELIEVE is a RESPONSE to the WORD of God. The Creeds summarise the basic teachings of the WORD. THIS is SOLA Scriptura"

You must be high on something tonight. The word of God is certainly NOT to be equated with Sola Scriptura. The word of God first came to us in the person Jesus Christ, secondly by apostolic preaching and finally, some of it is written down in scripture.

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

If you REALLY think those quotes support Sola Scriptura (SCRIPTURE A-L-O-N-E!), then it's no wonder you can't read the bible straight. Try better.

Augustinian Successor said...


Of course the quotes support sola Scriptura. No distinction between 'material' and 'formal' sense.

See how HERETICAL the Roman Church is?

Augustinian Successor said...


The Word of God is to be EQUATED with sola Scriptura. Jesus is not absent from the Church. He is present in HIS Word and the Sacraments.

You see, to confess Christ alone is at the same time to confess Scripture alone.

On the other handm, the Roman church ADDS to the work of Christ and Scripture. Doing so of course violates the warning of Revelation 22.

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Augustinian Successor said...


Luther taught that Scripture is both internally AND externally clear. This is why he repudiated the papacy, sacrifice of the mass and justification by love. Then when the Radical Reformation arose, he saw that it was in principle the same spirit as the Roman Church!

1. The sinner standing OVER Scripture (pope and Anabaptist with an appeal to the Holy Spirit). For Luther, Scripture interprets the sinner. The Spirit never speaks apart from the Word. The external Word IS the voice of the internal Word.

2. Free-will. The root of Roman and Anabaptist errors is free-will.

3. Confusion of the two-kingdoms. Roman wanted to Christianise the world, by spiritual and temporal sword. Some Anabaptists wanted to do the same. Others retreated FROM the world into communal seclusion.

Both Rome and Anabaptism represent the heresies of 'enthusiasm' or SUBJECTIVISM.

Augustinian Successor said...

"34,000 denominations and still counting"

Where did you get the number from?

Augustinian Successor said...


See how the Roman Church has departed from Augustinianism? Predestination is either neglected, obscured or outrightly rejected in the Roman Church.

Augustinian Successor said...

Replay for Franas:

ST. JEROME* (342?-420)

The church of Christ, possessing churches in all the world, is united by the unity of the Spirit, and has the cities of the law, the prophets, the gospels, and the apostles. She has not gone forth from her boundaries, that is, from the Holy Scriptures. (Comm. in Micha. 1:1)

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

Makes me wonder if you even understand Sola Scriptura?

Old Protestant slogan: Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum ("What is not biblical is not theological").

Simply stated, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura ("Scripture alone") holds that every point of Christian theology-everything pertaining to "faith and practice"-must be verifiable from the Bible alone.

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

"See how the Roman Church has departed from Augustinianism? Predestination is either neglected, obscured or outrightly rejected in the Roman Church"

Say who? The Catholic Church does teach predestination, just not double-predestination. We still think that God is just and faithful when he give us freewill.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Old Protestant slogan: Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum
("What is not biblical is not theological").

Simply stated, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura ("Scripture alone") holds that every point of Christian theology-everything pertaining to "faith and practice"-must be verifiable from the Bible alone."

No, that is NOT the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura. Makes me wonder if you're familiar with sola Scriptura in the first place. Case in point: LITURGICAL differences within the broad spectrum of the Magisterial Reformation.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Say who? The Catholic Church does teach predestination, just not double-predestination. We still think that God is just and faithful when he give us freewill."

Precisely. The Roman Church has departed from the Catholic teaching of ST. AUGUSTINE.

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

"Precisely. The Roman Church has departed from the Catholic teaching of ST. AUGUSTINE"

What planet are you on? You may be a diehard fan of St. Augustine but he was NOT the magisterium.

Here's what your favorite saint had to say about Sola Sriptura and Traditions:

"[T]he custom [of not rebaptizing converts] . . . may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings" (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23[31] [A.D. 400]).

"But the admonition that he [Cyprian] gives us, ‘that we should go back to the fountain, that is, to apostolic tradition, and thence turn the channel of truth to our times,’ is most excellent, and should be followed without hesitation" (ibid., 5:26[37]).

"But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the apostles themselves or by plenary [ecumenical] councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church" (Letter to Januarius [A.D. 400]).

franas said...

To Augustinian Successor:

It's becoming boring to say the least. Which part of A-L-O-N-E you do not understand?

If that's all you can bring to support Sola Scriptura, then we are truly wasting bandwidth here. I'm not surprised that the Early Fathers read scripture and even quoted from it, but where is the tittle of evidence that they even remotely believed in "Bible Alone"?

Anyway, someone else here is complaining so I will exit. Take care!

In Christ,

David Chen said...

A few observations:

1) Tradition is not a vague concept, but tradition is the authority of the Church based on a system of clear teachings of God's word adopted by the Church and upheld by its members, but Reformation rightly recognize Scripture is the final and ultimate authority and has the authority to correct traditional authority. This is why you read Calvin's Institutes that there are no lacking of Church Fathers nor appealing to common Church traditions as long as they are Biblical in Calvin's opinion.

2) Tradition should not be define in old and new terms, but Biblical/non-Biblical terms. The Reformed Tradition is not a repetition of Calvin alone (although we certainly recognize him as a giant within the tradition.) However, Reformed Tradition has grew, grown, and will continue to grow as generations of Reformed Christians carefully study the Word of God and reflect on the truths in love. The old does not necessarily overrule the new.

3) Tradition is a very helpful tool to bound our Biblical exegesis to the right direction. We should be careful with the idea that Scripture is above Tradition and therefore let's just go directly to the Scripture and then find evidenes to support the parts of the traditions that we do like, and then find critiques of evidences on the parts of the traditions that we don't like. That's not the proper relationship between Tradition and Scripture. While Scripture teaches and rules over Tradition, but Tradition informs the believers on the scope and direction of Scripture. The assumption has always been tradition is flaw and needs correction and its up to us barely educated in the Word seminary graduates to do just that, however, we forget the tradition is the tradition of thousands of years of careful exegetes, from the apostles down through the hearts and minds of numerous Spiritual giants, and our first nature should be upholding the teachings of traditions, and if we disagree then we need to be humble and first critique ourselves rather than make quick judgments.

I remember as a second year seminary student I was greatly humbled by this sentence by the famous NT exegetical scholar Moises Silva: "Christians should learn theology (Reformed) first, and exegete the Bible second."

The point is lest we become idols of our own prowess of exegesis, and not humble enough to submit to the tradition of our faith.

Augustinian Successor said...

"The point is lest we become idols of our own prowess of exegesis, and not humble enough to submit to the tradition of our faith."

Spot on, David. This is one of the reasons for the NPP in the first place.