Sola Scriptura: -- By: David T. King
RBTR 3:1 (Spring 2006) p. 109
Reflections on Current Roman Catholic Apologetic Approaches in Comparison to the Early Church on the issues of the Material and Formal Sufficiency of Holy Scripture
David T. King is a Teaching Elder/Pastor of the Dayspring Presbyterian Church (PCA) Forsyth, GA. David holds a M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS. He is co-author with William Webster of the three volume work, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (Christian Resources, 2001), which is a defense of the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura, and has contributed articles to Tabletalk magazine.
Since Vatican II, there has been a significant shift in the way that many Roman apologists are seeking to defend Rome in their stance against the principle of sola Scriptura. This has occurred most conspicuously in the last decade of the Twentieth Century, which witnessed the conversion of some high profile evangelicals to Roman Catholicism. Almost immediately there came a flurry of apologetic books to justify their conversions; all of which, to one degree or another, have focused attention critically on the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the inconsistency in current Roman affirmations concerning material sufficiency and formal sufficiency.1
RBTR 3:1 (Spring 2006) p. 110
Observably, though their former fellow disputants often argued against the material sufficiency of Holy Scripture, it presently seems en vogue to argue either for or against it depending on what strategy is deemed appropriate for the targeted audience. For example, as a proponent of the former approach, James Cardinal Gibbons (1834–1921), the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore, argued in the following manner:
A rule of faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties he is obliged to practice.2
To be sure, this is an explicit denial of material sufficiency. Continuing on the next page, Gibbons asserts further:
We must, therefore, conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer; because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation.
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