OPC Minister Becomes Roman Catholic

Today I heard on Dr. James White’s program that an Orthodox Presbyterian minister by the name of Jason Stewart has entered the Roman Catholic Church. I have many friends in the OPC, and hence, it caught me attention. What bothers me the most about these stories is the fact that these folks’ stories don’t seem to change. The articles I have written here and here pretty much refute everything that is said in his conversion story. Still, let us go through this one by one, and show how these arguments against Sola Scriptura make a mockery of language:

Coming at the doctrine from a different point of view, I had to admit certain weaknesses in it that ultimately changed my thinking. Here’s what I saw. First, the Bible doesn’t teach the principle of sola scriptura. The Scriptures are an incomparable guide for the moral life of the Christian, but they nowhere claim to be a comprehensive source for doctrine, worship, and the government of the Church.

Of course, one could cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Matthew 15, 2 Peter 1:21, and others. The point is not that the Bible doesn’t teach Sola Scriptura, but that he rejects these interpretations of the text. What I find ironic is that he never gives a reason why he rejects them. I think the reason for this will come up later.

Second, the Church Fathers don’t teach sola scriptura. The Fathers did not promote anything resembling a “Scripture alone” position but instead recognized the necessity and authority of the traditions handed down from the Apostles.

This has been absolutely ripped apart by church historians, both Catholic and Protestant. For a good take on this, I would recommend William Webster’s article on this very subject, in which he even quotes Catholic scholars saying the exact opposite of this. Secondly, the Roman concept of tradition did not exist in the early church. To be sure they spoke of tradition, but *never* did they use it in the way Rome uses the term, and it is entirely anachronistic to suggest such. There were some church fathers who used the term tradition to refer to certain practices such as triple immersion baptism which even Rome does not hold. However, this is clearly not doctrinal. However, when they used tradition to refer to doctrine, they generally used it in the context of a summary of Christian teaching. The scripture would be John 1:1, the tradition would be “the deity of Christ.” Such hardly violates Sola Scriptura. The concept of this dual nature of the word of God is, again, a very gnostic concept. It is ironic how things that men like Irenaeus had to fight against eventually are considered dogma.

Third, the “Bible-based” fragmentation of Protestantism argues against the soundness of sola scriptura. All claim to be following the Bible. All arrive at different understandings of what it teaches. With such variety what standard shall we use to determine who is correct? The Bible?

The key phrase here is, “All *claim* to follow the Bible.” The mere claim does not necessitate the truthfulness of the statement. The key here is that the Bible is normal human language, and when you misuse human language, you will have to be inconsistent, either with the worldview of the text, the immediate context of the text, the grammar, structure, and syntax of the text, etc. Yes, we decide this using the Bible, because the Bible is normal human language, and human language has certain features that allow us to understand what falls within the domain of the text, and what does not.

Fourth, the fact that the individual Protestant’s private judgment remains the final authority in evaluating faith claims undermines the principle of sola scriptura. Each person chooses the church group that agrees with his interpretation of the Bible. If disagreements arise within the group, a person then stays or leaves based on whether his interpretation is embraced or rejected. If rejected, the individual searches for a new church group that is in agreement with his interpretation of the Bible. Thus the individual remains the final arbiter of what the Bible teaches.

Again, this confuses a moral issue with an epistemic issue. The thing that Roman Catholics simply cannot abide is that a man is responsible to God for how he handles his word. Yes, a man can go off and start a church or join another church on the basis of a gross misinterpretation of the scriptures, but he will be held accountable to God when he does for not handling God’s word aright. You see, unlike the Roman Catholic, the Protestant believes [and, I would argue, must believe] that interpretation of scripture has both an ethical and epistemic aspect to it. The question of what the text means is an epistemic one, and sometimes differences of opinion stem from either people who are grossly incompetent playing Bible scholar or people who are competent not having yet come to concrete solution to various issues. [Of course, if the Roman Catholic objects to this, then he must prove that, by using the scriptures, one could *never* come to a solution to the problem; this puts him in the precarious position of having to argue for a universal negative]. The other reason why differences of opinion exist is because of ethical issues, that is, people refusing to simply submit to what the text teaches. The problem is, although the scriptures themselves are the final arbiter of what the text teaches, the notion that everyone will have the ethical fortitude to submit to that final authority is wishful thinking at best, given the fact that we live in a fallen world. Even the Roman Catholic will have to admit this, since not everyone submits to the authority of Rome.

Fifth, the fact that the Apostolic letters and writings give no divinely inspired indication what books are to be included in the canon of the New Testament makes impossible the principle of sola scriptura. How can the Bible be the ultimate authority when its very content is uncertain? Catholics believe the divinely guided Church was necessary to define what books belong to the New Testament.

I already addressed this in my last post in the series of contra-anti Sola Scriptura arguments. Suffice it to say that Athenasius gave the same New Testament long before there was any church council. Suffice it to say that the Canon that the church throughout its history gives or the Jews gave is *not* the canon of Rome [given Rome’s insistence that the apocrypha is scripture]. Also, the Canon was not defined dogmatically until April of 1546, and there were Roman Catholics who fought against Luther and the reformation who rejected the apocrypha [i.e. Cajatan]. Also, there is no way, given this system, for a Jew to know what the canon of the Old Testament was before Jesus came, and yet, Jesus clearly held people responsible for knowing what God had said. Also, it ignores that God led his people to have what he wanted them to have for *his* covenant purposes, not because he was trying to instill some infallibility into the church.

In contrast to this “Scripture alone” position, the Catholic Church teaches that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). That by divine design it is the Church that upholds and protects the truth of the gospel throughout the centuries.

First of all, the context is talking about the local church with elders [v.2] and deacons [v.12]. Also, the point of the passage is that this is what the church is *supposed* to do. This is the way the church is to function, not the way the church always does function. This is the same error that Ecclesiastical Text Theorists make which, ironically, shows how similar their position on the church is to Rome.

Jesus promised to guide and instruct the ordained leaders of the Church (Jn 14:25; 16:13). The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Christ’s guarantee that the shepherds of his Church will never tamper with, pervert, or misunderstand the gospel. This is known formally as the Catholic doctrine of magisterial infallibility — the pope alone or the pope and the bishops in union with him are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters pertaining to faith and morals.

This is wishful thinking because, first of all, Jesus promises these things to his disciples, and mentions nothing of succession; that must be read into the text. Secondly, it is ironic that the great text teaching Sola Scriptura, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, is in the context of evil men coming into the flock [v.13]. Isn’t it interesting that Paul directs Timothy to the scriptures in such a setting. Why didn’t Paul direct Timothy to the Roman Pontiff? The answer is obvious, namely, that once the apostles were gone, the leaders of the church were supposed to go back to scripture in order to deal with the issue of evil men coming into the flock. Thirdly, it is ironic that there have been Popes who have taught heresy. One can think of, for example, the pornocracy, or Pope Honorius who was a monophysite. Ironically, subsequent councils condemned Honorius as a heretic. Where was Christ’s promised protection here? And what of Sixtus V’s infallible Latin Vulgate? The number of errors are simply too large. Either Christ’s statement was wrong [which, if you believe he is God, it cannot be], or Rome is misinterpreting the statement.

As I studied this subject of Church authority, I began to see that the Catholic doctrine of Apostolic succession naturally connected to the biblical portrait of Church authority as it existed in the days of the Apostles. The Church wasn’t bereft of a living teaching authority when the Apostles died because these Apostles appointed qualified men to succeed them in the office of bishop, transmitting by succession a full share in the Apostolic authority so essential to the preservation and proclamation of the Apostolic deposit of faith. It became clear to me that the Bible and Church history confirm and corroborate this important teaching of the Catholic Church. Jesus gave us a Church with a book, not a book with a Church.

Who ever said that the church was bereft of teaching authority when the apostles died? It still has teaching authority, but that authority is a derived authority-an authority derived from scripture. Also,notice how there is no discussion of where the Bible teaches infallibility extending to successors. Hence, the conclusion is totally unwarranted both historically and Biblically.

I said I would get back to why I think that Mr. Stewart said that the text doesn’t teach Sola Scriptura, and that is because, for a Roman Catholic, the church is the infallible interpreter. To be blunt, the reason why the text doesn’t teach Sola Scriptura for Mr. Stewart, is because the Catholic Church says the text cannot teach Sola Scriptura. Such an assertion shows that Rome’s claim to be an “infallible interpreter” is really an immoral claim. Such a position is immoral, because it cannot allow God to speak. It must break the ninth commandment, and say that God is saying something when he really is not. The fact that they cannot apply the same standards of hermeneutics that we would apply to any other text shows that they are not interested in what the author says, and hence, are more than willing to break the ninth commandment, and say that God has said something when he has not. Such is a very serious charge, but I believe that the heart of the issue with Rome is not really epistemic, but ethical. I do not treat the writings of Roman Catholic apologists as if I need an infallible interpreter to read them, and then find an interpreter that says that they say what I want them to say. However, Rome has to do so with the Bible, and in so doing, they break the ninth commandment against God himself.


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