Roman Catholicism


Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?


Gerry Matatics vs. James White
November, 1992
Omaha, Nebraska

First of Four 7-Minute Rebuttals
James White

I do not wish to take a great deal of time this evening, because we're here to discuss sola Scriptura, to respond in regards to Mr. Lewis. When Mr. Matatics and I debated in Phoenix in December, 1990, I asked Mr. Matatics about Mr. Lewis, who is a Feeneyite, who does not believe that anyone outside the Roman Catholic Church can possibly be saved, and at that time I was just informed, well, he's a Feeneyite and their sort of off and on the fringe. That was the same individual I was talking to you about, Mr. Matatics. I have listened to a number of tapes from Mr. Lewis and I never heard anything more absurd in my life. The man knows nothing about the Protestant position. You called him the best, the most competent. The man does not have any education beyond a high school education. He knows nothing about the Biblical languages. I would liken Mr. Lewis to Jack Chick, Alberto Rivera and Peter Ruckman in ability and I simply have not felt that it would be a proper thing to engage such an individual in a food fight in public which is what his tapes demonstrate he is all about. So, I have no interest in getting into that.

I would like to say, however, that if we're into offering debate challenges, we have made an open and public debate challenge to Karl Keating and Patrick Madrid of Catholic Answers--in fact, you were in the office, Gerry, when we made it--that has been turned down consistently, the most recent one, to debate the subject of the papacy prior to the coming of the pope to Denver in August of next year. You, yourself, have shown some indication of interest in doing that and I appreciate that, but if we want to talk about debate challenges that have been turned down, yes, I have turned down Vinny Lewis because I have some standards in regards to the scholarly ability of people I debate. That's why I'm debating you because I know that you're a scholar in the things that you talk about. Mr. Lewis is not. But, Mr. Keating is a different issue and if you want to talk about who's not debating who, then I guess we can go into that.

But, you then asked about a vow to God. I will do exactly what Luther did when he stood before the Diet of Worms. When he was told that he must recant, he knew his life was on the line, he said, "It is not good to go against one's conscience. I am bound to the authority of Scripture," and as he said, "Heir stehe Ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir." "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me." And I do stand under the authority of the Word of God and if it can be demonstrated from the Word of God that what I believe is untrue than I will most assuredly follow in that direction.

I wanted to finish a few things from the notes that I did not have the opportunity of presenting to you in the earlier period of time. Mr. Matatics has just again asserted that II Thessalonians 2:15 presents a command to pass on all tradition. But as we saw it, as we took the time to look at it, we saw that no such command is found there whatsoever, that there is no concept, that Mr. Matatics is reading into the text this concept that this oral tradition that differs from what is found in the New Testament that is to be passed on, things about papal infallibility or Immaculate Conception, or whatever else it may be.

Now, we had also looked at II Timothy 2:2. You may recall that. "But you, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these things entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others." And I read to you in your hearing, what Tertullian said about this and I wanted to point out some passages of Scripture to you that help us to understand what this passing on of the apostolic teaching was all about and that it has nothing to do with what is being presented by Mr. Matatics this evening in regards to this separate oral tradition, which, again, Mr. Matatics must demonstrate the existence of before we can even discuss it.

II Timothy 1:13-14, Paul, writing to Timothy says--the same passage in which he says, "Pass on what I have spoken to you,"--"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." This is what he is to be passing on. The pattern of sound doctrine, the pattern of sound words. And that certainly is what we have in the New Testament is that pattern of sound words. Look at I Timothy 6:20-21, "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some profess and in so doing have wandered from the faith." This is not something different than what you have in Romans or Galatians. This is not something about Immaculate Conception. This is not some oral tradition that exists separately from the New Testament at all.

Look at II Thessalonians 3:6, if you want to see some other passages where Paul discusses this very thing. I don't hear too many pages turning out there. II Thessalonians 3:6, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." Well, here it is again. NIV uses "teaching," other translations use "tradition." Well, where did this tradition come from? Is this some tradition that exists outside the New Testament? No! Look back at I Thessalonians 4:1-2. "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." We are not talking about something that exists separately from the New Testament that is different and in fact that the Church does not even find out about for many, many centuries after they were supposedly delivered. Let me give you an example. Many Roman doctrines that claim tradition as their source were completely unknown for millennia, for example, the Immaculate Conception. As late as the 19th century, we have the Roman Catholic bishop, Milner, saying, "The Church does not decide the controversy concerning the conception of the Blessed Virgin and several other disputed points because she sees nothing clear and certain concerning them either in the written or unwritten word, and, therefore leads her children to form their own opinions concerning them." Well, he certainly turned out to be wrong, didn't he?

But the fact of the matter is that is if you go back to the early fathers, you're not going to find that doctrine--many of the doctrines. For example, in Revelation 12. Who is the woman in Revelation Chapter 12? The vast majority of Roman Catholics today will tell you, "Well, that's Mary." Who was she to the early church? Have you ever looked? In the early fathers, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Virgin, is always the church, not Mary. This is something the Roman Catholic scholars have often admitted. Joseph Martos, in his book Doris, the Sacred, when talking about something we will discuss tomorrow evening, the Mass, recognizes that the concept of transubstantiation that was made a part of Roman Catholic doctrine formally in the Fourth Lateran Council, was a mere theory only a hundred years earlier.

So are we to believe, what is this oral tradition? Gerry is talking to us about this oral tradition. What is it? What will it be tomorrow? What will it be a hundred years from now? How are we supposed to examine it? Can we find it some place? Some Roman Catholics think so. It was written down by the early fathers. Okay, let's go to the early fathers and see if we can find the infallibility of the pope. You're not going to. What about these things? What is this oral tradition? It is very difficult for me to point out that the oral tradition is not theopneustos when no one knows what it is. But Mr. Matatics has to demonstrate that it is theopneustos, God-breathed, for it to function as a rule of faith for the church. He must also demonstrate that it contains information other than that which we have in the New Testament. And that means that if Mr. Matatics is going to use II Thessalonians 2:15, he must be able to demonstrate that what Paul taught the Thessalonians--remember, the tradition was already delivered, past tense--is what Paul taught the Thessalonians the same as what he is now asserting is oral tradition. Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about the Immaculate Conception? Does that mean the Thessalonians knew about papal infallibility? The bodily assumption of Mary? Are those things what the Thessalonians knew? Where is the evidence of that? I would challenge Mr. Matatics to bring that out.

Now, he said that this concept was not taught in the early church. I would like to read just a few passages for you. For example, when the great early Father, Augustine, long after the Council of Nicaea, wrote a letter to Maximun, the Arian. Again, here come the Arians again. Why is that important? Well, because the Arians deny a very central foundational doctrine of faith, the deity of Christ. When he wrote to Maximun, the Arian, he knew that Maximun could cause him some problems. Do you know why? Because there were church councils held during the Arian ascendancy that denied the deity of Christ. Sermium, Arminum, church councils that erred, that made mistakes on that subject. And so what did Augustine say? "I must not press the authority of Nicaea against you, nor you that of Arminum against me. I do not acknowledge the one as you do not the other. But let us come to ground that is common to both, the testimony of the Holy Scriptures." Where is the oral tradition? Why don't we say, "Well, oral tradition teaches the deity of Christ, and you must bow to it." That's not what he does. He argues from Scripture to demonstrate that.

Augustine, again, "Let us not hear, 'This I say, this you say' but 'Thus says the Lord.' Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we both agree and on which we both believe. Therefore, let us seek the church. There let us discuss our case in the Scriptures." He says, also, "Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other, not from divine, canonical books but from elsewhere. Some may perhaps ask, 'Why do you want to remove these things from our midst?' Because I do not want the Holy Church proved by human documents but by divine oracles." There are so many that hopefully we'll have the opportunity of getting into them, but I wanted to read just a couple others in regards to some of the statements that Gerry had made just a few moments ago.

For example, Augustine again, "What more shall I teach than that what we read in the Apostles, for holy Scripture speaks as the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought. Therefore, I should not teach you anything else except to expound you the words of the teacher." The rule of our doctrine it speaks by what? Scripture plus tradition? Scripture plus oral tradition? I don't believe so. Basil. Listen to what he says, "The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign." That is what I believe. We should test anything we are taught by our teachers by what standard? By papal encyclicals? Vatican II? The Council of Trent? No, by the inspired Scriptures.

And finally, Mr. Matatics was making comments concerning the written and the oral word. I want to read from Augustine again, "You ought to know this and particularly store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian." Listen closely: "For when he offered himself to them to touch," (he's talking about the resurrected Lord) "this did not suffice him unless he also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures. For he foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read." Even in the resurrection of the Lord, he confirms their hearts from the Scriptures because he knew that someday they would not have something to touch but would have something to read. My friends, that is what I'm talking about here. And I want to again emphasize that Mr. Matatics must demonstrate that this oral tradition, what he is wanting us to accept as being authoritative beyond this, must be God-breathed. He must be able to define what is in it outside of what's in here and that it is God-breathed. That, truly, is the focus of the debate.

Thank you very much.