A brief answer: Since the Bible is sufficient, why do we need catechisms and creeds?


Ephesians 4

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.


John Woodbridge, Research Professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, answers the question “If Scripture is sufficient, why do we need catechisms?” related to his talk “Sola Scriptura: Worldview Formation, Renewing the Church, and Evangelism,” 2017 European Leadership Forum.

source:

Reformanda Initiative

If Scripture is sufficient, why do we need catechisms?


Niagara Falls, Ontario: sign warning people not to climb over guard rail overlooking Niagara River. Photo: GeorgeLouis.

Scripture Alone, for the Reformers and us!


Joel Beeke’s explanation of the authority of God’s Word is clear and solid: I really appreciated his article. Because of our disappointment with certain pastors, as well as the many false teachers who’ve arisen among us, some readers may object to Beeke’s emphasis on the importance of the Biblical role of pastor-teacher in the Church, but I believe it is what the Lord ordained for us. Godly pastors are His gift. Thank you, Lord!

junge-lammer-des-hausschafes-by-bohringer-friedrich-2006-via-wikimedia.jpg



The Sufficiency of the Bible Contra Rome

excerptS

The principle of sola Scriptura  explains why the Reformers accepted some parts of Roman Catholic teaching but not others. They believed that Christ, as the only Head, rules His church by His Word and Spirit. The authority of Scripture is thus absolute, the authority of Christ Himself, not an authority derived from or accorded to it by the church. Calvin said that Scripture is as authoritative as if we heard God’s “living words” from heaven with our own ears (Institutes, 1.7.1) and so Christians should be governed by its promises (Institutes, 3.2.6–7) and the church should be wholly subject to its authority (Institutes, 4.8). . .

The Bible’s sufficiency should also not be understood to exclude the use of the church’s helps, such as her many teachers past and present, and the writings produced by them. These are not to be rejected, but welcomed as a means that the Holy Spirit has provided in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28Eph. 4:11–13). However, they are subordinated to the Bible in such a way that they have authority to direct our faith and obedience only insofar as they faithfully reproduce and apply the teachings of Scripture. The principle of Scripture alone, rightly understood, does not mean the church of any given time or place operates by the Bible alone without reference to the traditions of the church through the ages. Rather, the sola of sola Scriptura means that the Bible alone is the fountain and touchstone for all authoritative teaching and tradition. This point especially needs to be emphasized in an ahistoric contemporary culture that emphasizes radical individualism and personal liberty. As Peter warns, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). . .
.
Photo: “Junge lammer des hausschafes” (Young lamb of the domestic sheep) by bohringer friedrich, 2006, Wikimedia.
..

 

The Lord’s attitude toward the Word of God must be our own


Psalm 67

1 God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah
2 That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.


THE CHURCH OF ROME

at the

BAR OF HISTORY

By William Webster

Chapter 1, “The Authority of Scripture,” pp. 4,5

sp

“Christianity is founded upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His attitude to the Scriptures is supremely important. Since he is God, then all that He teaches must be true and authoritative.

“Jesus clearly taught that Scripture is inspired by God. He regarded it as truth – infallible, inerrant, historically reliable, authoritative for living, and an all-sufficient rule of faith. He could say, for example, when speaking with the Pharisees or the Sadducees, ‘Have you not read what God said?’ and then quote from Scripture (Matt. 22:31-32). In Matthew 4:4-10, Jesus repeatedly answers Satan by using the Old Testament as the Word of God, saying, ‘It is written.’ He maintained that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was accomplished (Matt. 5:17) and that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). In the prayer to his Father on the night before he was crucified, Jesus declared that ‘Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). He affirmed the historicity of Adam (Matt. 19:4), Cain and Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah (Luke 17:26), Jonah (Matt. 12:40), the creation account (Mark 10:6-9), and the reality of heaven and hell (Mark 9:44-46).

“Jesus also used the Word of God as an ultimate standard of authority when he came into conflict with other people. He rebuked men with Scripture; correcting their false concepts, teaching and misinterpretations of Scripture by using scriptural proofs. Matthew 22:23-33, for example, describes how Jesus told the Sadduccees that they were greatly mistaken in their denial of the resurrection because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Then he quoted a passage from Genesis as an authoritative declaration from God to correct them. It is highly significant that Christ never appealed to tradition as a standard of authority; instead he used Scripture to correct the errors of tradition.

“As Jesus is Lord over the Church, the Church must not only accept his teaching on the Scriptures; it must also adopt the same attitude towards them that he did. His entire life was submitted to the authority of Scripture. In quoting passages from the Old Testament during his conflict with Satan in the wilderness, Christ was applying them to his own life and thereby demonstrating that he was under the authority of Scripture. His victory was accomplished through obedience to the Scriptures as he used them as the ultimate authority for every area of his life. At another time, speaking of his relationship with his Father, Jesus said, ‘I know him and keep his word’ (John 8:55). From beginning to end, Christ’s life and ministry were governed by the authority of Scripture.

“As well as testifying to the truth of the Scriptures by submitting himself to their authority, Christ also declared their inspiration as he fulfilled in his life, death, and resurrection the Messianic prophecies they contained. Over and over again he said, ‘This is being done in order that that which is written might be fulfilled.’ Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures can be seen in any cursory examination of some of the more prominent Messianic prophecies. . .”

 


 One passage Webster cited in which the Lord gave Scriptural proof:

Matthew 22:23-33

23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.


The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the many Messianic prophecies in this single passage:

 Isaiah 53:3-12

3 He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.


If you want to know what the Early Church believed about tradition and the Word of God, here is a place to start.


1 Thessalonians 2

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

2 Timothy 3

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


Those who defend Roman Catholic Tradition often refer to men of God of the first few centuries to support their own view that this Tradition is just as authoritative as God’s Word and is one of two sources of divine revelation. So, for Bible Christians it is a joy to discover that these men referred the believers of their own day to Holy Scripture. It is as if we can hear them shouting down the ages, proclaiming that Jesus Christ Alone is Lord and His Word Alone is to be trusted; in this way, they being dead still speak (Hebrews 11:4).

Here are several quotes about Holy Scripture from a few of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 11:1-2): 

For all but Jerome’s quote:

William Webster, “The Fathers on the Meaning of Tradition and its Relationship to Scripture,” The Church Of Rome At The Bar Of History, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 2003, pp. 155–161.

For Jerome’s quote:

David T. King, HOLY SCRIPTURE: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume I, A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, CHRISTIAN RESOURCES, INC., 2001, p. 130.

I did my best to check these authors’ sources for quotes in order to get to original sources. If I’ve made mistakes in vetting or formatting, please forgive and let me know.

Irenaeus (140–202 A.D.)

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period by the will of God, handed to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. . .

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded he doctrine regarding God. 

Against Heresies

Hippolytus (d. 235 A.D.)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn.

Against the Heresy of One Noetus

Clement of Alexandria (c.150–211/216 A.D.)

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves. 

The Stromata [Miscellanies], Book VII, Chapter XVI – Scripture the Criterion by Which Truth and Heresy are Distinguished

Origen (c.185–253/254 A.D.)

In proof of all words which we advance in matters of doctrine, we ought to set forth the sense of Scripture as confirming the meaning which we are proposing. For as all gold which was outside of the temple was not sanctified, so every sense which is outside of the divine Scripture, however admirable it may appear to some, is not sacred because it is not limited by the sense of Scripture. Therefore we should not take our own ideas for the confirmation of doctrine, unless someone shows that they are holy because they are contained in the divine Scriptures as in the temples of God.

Philocalia [Philokalia]

Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386 A.D.)

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. 

Catechetical Lectures, NPNF2: Vol. VII, Lecture IV:17

Chrysostom (344/354–407 A.D.)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scripture.

The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, 2 Timothy, Homily 9

Hilary of Poitiers (315–367/368 A.D.) 

For all those things which are written in the divine Scriptures by Prophets and by Apostles we believe and follow truly and with fear.

On the Councils

Augustine (354–430 A.D.)

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought.

The Unity of the Church, chapter 3

*Jerome (c. 27 March 347–30 September 420)

The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forge from a pretended (quasi) apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures. 

Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai 1:11, cited in Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology*

Eusebius (263–340 A.D.)

And I rejoiced over the constancy, sincerity, docility, and intelligence of the brethren, as we considered in order and with moderation the questions and the difficulties and the points of agreement. And we abstained from defending in every manner and contentiously the opinions which we had once held, unless they appeared to be correct. Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavoured as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of Holy Scriptures. 

Church History, NPNF2–01: Chapter XXIV  – Nepos and his Schism.

Athanasius (295–375 A.D.)

For the true and pious faith in the Lord has become manifest to all, being both ‘known and read’ from the Divine Scriptures.

Athanasius, letter 60.6

John of Damascus (645–749 A.D.) 

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times, and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by the Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour, seeking for nothing beyond these. . .As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition.

Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, chapter I


FURTHER READING

The Church Fathers and the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture by William Webster

Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura by Armchair Theologian, WordPress


 

Essay Question

.


 

Catholic apologists claim that Protestants and Evangelicals have so many ‘sects’ because we read the Bible on our own without a teaching authority; that this has produced tens of thousands of denominations; and that this is a sign of God’s judgment upon Protestantism.

What do you think?

If you disagree, how would you respond to Catholic apologists?


.

Here are a few responses from Dr. Joe Mizzi of justforcatholics.orgJust for Catholics is “an evangelical ministry dedicated to Roman Catholics who desire to know how to be saved.” (I added links within Dr. Mizzi’s short article, and an excerpt that follows it.)

justforcatholics.org header

30,000 Protestant Denominations?

Question: If one thing is clear, it’s that there is one, single, visible Church that Jesus founded. This multitude of competing, conflicting denominations is no sign of God’s work; therefore, it must be the work of the Evil One. Somewhere in the midst of these 30,000 denominations, there is one true church, and the rest are in sin and rebellion.

Answer: The “thousands-of-denominations” argument is very often employed to prove all sorts of things. Here are some citations from letters received from other Catholics:

How can all these denominations claim to follow the Bible yet all come to different conclusions? How can I possibly know which one of those above teach the truth when they can’t even agree on what the Bible says? The Bible alone has created so much havoc in this world.

If there is only one Church, why are there so many Protestant denominations? Possibly many thousands throughout the world, as compared to only one Catholic Church? I do see it as a sign of God’s judgment that there are close to 30,000 Protestant denominations.

The Bible alone can be dangerous. In fact, the Bible alone IS dangerous. Look at Protestantism: 100,000 different interpretation of the Bible, 100,000 contradictions, 100,000 different denominations claiming to have the key.

Peter said that no prophecy of the Scripture is for private interpretation. This is why you have 30,000 different Protestant denominations that all believe differently from one another. This alone should give you a clue that Protestantism is not the true Church of Jesus Christ.

So, the existence of many Protestant denominations supposedly proves that the Sola Scriptura is dangerous, that we should not try to understand the Bible for ourselves, that the church of Rome is the one true church, and of course, all the other churches are false.

Elsewhere I have written on the significance of the heterogeneity among Christians. (See That They May Be One and Disagreement among Protestants). Here I simply want to make one important addition, namely, that the allegation so often repeated by Catholic apologists that there are 20,000 to 30,000 Protestant denominations is simply FALSE . . . not to mention the double standard employed, for the Roman Church is not exactly united. There are untold factions and divisions, and diverse understanding of doctrine within Catholic groups and by different Catholic theologians and individuals.

In an article entitled “30,000 Protestant Denominations?”, Evangelical apologist Eric Svendsen exposes the falsehood of this fabrication. Briefly:

Svendsen shows that the source of this figure is the World Christian Encyclopedia (David A. Barrett; Oxford University Press, 1982).

Barrett cites a figure of 20,780 denominations. However not all of them are Protestants. According to Barrett, Protestants account for 8,196 (and incidentally, Roman Catholics account for 223).

However, even this figure of eight thousand Protestant denominations is misleading, for Barrett defines “distinct denominations” as any group that might have a slightly different emphasis than another group. The distinction is made on the basis of jurisdiction, rather than differing beliefs and practices.

Barrett breaks down the Protestant bloc into twenty-one major “traditions” which are much closer to what we usually mean by the word “denominations.” It is interesting that Roman Catholics are subdivided into sixteen such “traditions.”

Svendsen concludes, “In short, Roman Catholic apologists have hurriedly, carelessly – and, as a result, irresponsibly – glanced at Barrett’s work, found a large number (22,189), and arrived at all sorts of absurdities that Barrett never concluded.”

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. 

.

Dr. Mizzi offers more to counter the claim of Catholic apologists that Protestantism and Evangelicalism are hopelessly fractured, and that this is a judgment of God upon our rebellion, in his article “That They May Be One!” (cited above). In this excerpt he describes factions and sources of authority for Catholicism and Christianity:

Christian denominations do not even begin to rival the diversity between the various groups, movements, societies and orders within the Catholic Church. The spectrum ranges from the cloister nuns and Trappist monks (who spend all their time in silence), through the Masonic-like Catenians and Opus Dei, Traditional Catholics, Liberal Catholics, the Neocatechumens, Catholic Charismatics, Evangelical Catholics and so on. They all fall under the wide umbrella of Catholicism, of course, but the differences between them are just as real, and even wider than between Christian denominations. Someone will protest that this is “diversity within unity” and that all these groups are Catholics and united under the leadership of the Pope. Well then, by the same token, despite their diversity, the many denominations are all Christian and united under the headship of Christ.