Ask a Protestant whether a person can be a faithful Christian, if all he does is stay home and read the Bible.
He never prays, never attends church, never listens
to preaching, never receives baptism, never receives communion, never feeds the hungry, never comforts the sick, and never engages in evangelism. Can such a faith save him? Is the Bible, by itself, actually sufficient?
“That’s not what I mean by ‘sufficient’,” the Protestant protests. “Even some atheists read the Bible. If you merely read it, but you do not obey it, then of course it will not do you any good. Scripture is not sufficient unless it is obeyed.“
Fair enough. In that case, though, Scripture denies its own sufficiency. The Bible does
not tell us to rely on the Bible alone. Rather, it says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Scripture instructs everyone to follow Church Tradition, and it praises those who do so.
“That’s not what I mean by ‘obey’,” the Protestant protests.
“You are misinterpreting those passages that talk about the Church and Tradition. Scripture is not sufficient unless it is obeyed, according to the correct interpretation.“
I see. You are telling me that my honest interpretation of Scripture is wrong. When I read passages like 1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 1 Corinthians 11:2, my first impression is just to take them at face-value, and to believe what they say. They all seem to suggest that Church Tradition is a good thing I should follow.
“That’s not what I mean by ‘correct interpretation’,” the Protestant protests.
“Not all Scripture passages are equally clear. Those three passages are not clear to me.
So you should not start with those. Let’s start with
2 Timothy 3:16.
That passage tells us that Scripture is sufficient. So we need to start there. Scripture is not sufficient unless it is obeyed, according to the correct interpretation . . . and the correct method of interpretation has to be defined by Protestants like me.“
Ok . . . but 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t even say that Scripture is “sufficient” for anything. Instead, it says that Scripture is “profitable”. It is profitable for helping a man of God become sufficient, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Of course, I agree that Scripture is profitable for equipping Christians in that way. Lots of other things are profitable too, like prayer, fasting, charity, worship, acts of kindness, etc. Scripture is
one of the things which are profitable for equipping Christians, but Scripture is not the
“That is still not what I mean by ‘sufficient’,” the Protestant protests. “Of course a Christian needs lots of things in addition to Scripture, including prayer, fasting, worship, etc. But where do Christians learn to do all of those things? They learn them from the Scriptures! So when I say Scripture is ‘sufficient’, I do not mean that Bible-reading is the only activity necessary. Rather, I simply mean that Scripture teaches us everything we need to know. Everything a Christian needs to know, and everything a Christian needs to do, can be found in the all-sufficient Scriptures.”
So, for example, if I want to know how I should pray, I can find out in Scripture. That sounds good to me. I am thankful that Scripture explicitly encourages prayers for the dead.
“PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD?!?”
Yep, the prayers come and go in both directions. In Revelation 6:9-10, the martyrs in Heaven pray about events on Earth. And elsewhere in Scripture, people on Earth are encouraged to pray for those who have died. As it is written: “It is therefore a holy
and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”
(2 Maccabees 12:46).
“But the book of 2 Maccabees is not even IN my Bible,” the Protestant protests.
Then why did you take it out? The first Protestant Bible ever published with only 66 books in it was the Geneva Bible of 1599. It was originally planned to include ALL the books of Scripture, as had always been done before. But apparently there was a last minute change of plans. The 1599 Geneva Bible was published with numerous blank pages between the Old Testament and the New Testament, taking up the space originally reserved for the remaining books of Scripture. Even after that, most Protestant Bibles continued to contain books like Wisdom, Sirach, and 2 Maccabees. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Protestants finally made it popular to print Bibles containing only 66 books.
“Well, we removed those books from the Bible, because they never should have been there in the first place.
Maccabees is not Scripture.”
I believe it is the Word of God. And for 1500 years, the Church taught that it was Scripture.
“Well, you’re both wrong. It’s not Scripture. The Bible only has 66 books.”
Really? Where does your all-sufficient Bible teach that?