It is my hope that the following Socratic Dialogue serve as a logical device to highlight the
circularity and foundationless nature of "sola scriptura."
Protestant Christian - I reject the notion of apostolic succession because it's not taught in the
Catholic Christian - You only believe things that are taught in the scriptures?
Protestant Christian - Yes. I believe that all scripture is inspired so that we can be fully equipped
for every good work. Christians should be careful not to go beyond what is written, to avoid the
traditions of men. And since the teaching of apostolic succession is a very important matter, we
should expect to see it in scripture. It's not there, however. It's simply a "tradition of men" that
was added to the faith in post-apostolic times.
Catholic Christian - May I ask you a question?
Protestant Christian - Sure
Catholic Christian - Would you say that the acceptance of the books/letters of the New Testament
is a very important matter?
Protestant Christian - Most definitely. It's through the New Testament that we learn of Jesus and
his plan of salvation.
Catholic Christian - Where then in the New Testament do we learn of there being a set of inspired
books and letters that together form a definitive literary body of work to be obeyed by all
Protestant Christian - I don't understand the question.
Catholic Christian - Well, you said you only believe things that are written in the Bible, right?
Protestant Christian - Right.
Catholic Christian - You also hold to the notion that if something is really important for our
salvation the Bible should say so. Correct?
Protestant Christian - Yeah, that's correct.
Catholic Christian - So, is the acceptance of the New Testament books and letters as inspired by
God an important matter?
Protestant Christian - Absolutely!
Catholic Christian - Great. So, where in the New Testament do we read that? That is, show me
chapter and verse from the New Testament that informs us of this most important matter -
namely, that there are 27 inspired books that form the definitive body of literature for all
Protestant Christian - 1st Timothy 3:15 says all scripture is inspired.
Catholic Christian - What constitutes scripture?
Protestant Christian - What do you mean?
Catholic Christian - If all scripture is inspired, then we need to find out what books and letters
constitute inspired scripture. Does the New Testament tell us that?
Protestant Christian - Well...no.
Catholic Christian - So how do you know which books and letters are scripture?
Protestant Christian - Well the Church has always believed that there were certain books and
letters that had authority.
Catholic Christian - Really? How do you know that?
Protestant Christian - Well, if you study history you'll learn that the earliest Christians viewed
most of the New Testament as we know it today.
Catholic Christian - Hold on. I thought you only go by what's in the Bible?
Protestant Christian - I do.
Catholic Christian - But if you only go by what's in the bible, why do you resort to history in an
effort to explain which books and letters are inspired?
Protestant Christian - Because history tells us that that's what Christians have always believed.
Catholic Christian - But history also tells us that Christians have always believed apostolic
succession. Why do you accept Christian history when it comes to sacred scripture and reject it
when it comes to apostolic succession?
Protestant Christian - Because apostolic succession is not in the Bible.
Catholic Christian - Neither is the notion that there are 27 inspired books that form a definitive
body of literature for all Christians. Right?
Protestant Christian - Um....
Catholic Christian - Can I ask you another question?
Protestant Christian - Sure.
Catholic Christian - If Christians of the second century largely knew which books and letters
comprised the New Testament without the New Testament listing them, then where did they get
Protestant Christian - From the apostles and early believers.
Catholic Christian - So, basically you're saying that they passed this information down orally?
Protestant Christian - Um....I suppose.
Catholic Christian - But I thought you were opposed to oral tradition.
Protestant Christian - I'm opposed to oral tradition that is not in the Bible.
Catholic Christian - That doesn't make sense, though. The New Testament books are not
mentioned in the Bible nor is the idea of a definitive literary body of Christian writings. For that
information you trust the testimony of the Church. I sense an inconsistency here. How can you
say that you reject oral tradition when you come by your knowledge of scripture via oral
Protestant Christian - The Catholics were involved in inquisitions!
Catholic Christian - I know. But let's stay on the issue in question. How do you know who wrote
the gospel that we commonly attribute to Matthew?
Protestant Christian - I'm not sure.
Catholic Christian - Well, we know this by the testimony of the Church fathers. In fact, to
Mathew's gospel could be added Mark, Luke John and John's three letters. All those writings
lack autographs. Why do you trust that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?
Protestant Christian - Because the Church has always believed that.
Catholic Christian - Why do you trust the Church's oral tradition on the authorship of the gospels
and epistles, but distrust her when she speaks of apostolic succession?
Protestant Christian - Because apostolic succession is not taught in the Bible.
Catholic Christian - Point me to the chapter and verse in the Bible that lists 27 books/letters as
the inspired literary corpus for Christians.
Protestant Christian - I can't do that.
Catholic Christian - But you said that we should expect to find all important matters in the
scriptures, that Christ would certainly see to it that such things were written down in holy
scripture if our very lives depended on them.
Protestant Christian - The fact of the matter is that the 27 books which the Catholic Church
officially counted as NT scripture near the end of the 4th century had already been recognized as
such by millions of Christians for hundreds of years!
Catholic Christian - Did those millions of Christians recognize apostolic succession?
Protestant Christian - Yes. But that's a false teaching.
Catholic Christian - How do you know?
Protestant Christian - Because it's not in the Bible.
Catholic Christian - But if millions of Christians for hundreds of years recognized the 27 books
which the Catholic Church officially counted as NT scripture near the end of the 4th century even
though these books and the notion of a an inspired body of literature are not mentioned in the
Bible, then that means millions of Christians for hundreds of years did not limit their beliefs to
things found only in the Bible. Right?
Protestant Christian - I'm not sure.
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by
word of mouth or by letter" - St. Paul
|Socratic Dialogue With a Protestant On Sola Scriptura
By James Caputo