Response to Scott Windsor (regarding Steve Hays and Sola Scriptura)

I see that Scott Windsor (Roman Catholic) has responded to Steve Hays (Reformed) on the topic of Sola Scriptura (link to response). Steve is more than capable of carrying on the discussion himself. I’d like to simply address a few of the issues in Scott’s post:

1) The definition of Sola Scriptura

I realize there may be a few folks out there who use the definition “If it’s not in the Bible, don’t believe it!” but Scott knows full well that’s not the standard meaning of the phrase Sola Scriptura: it’s neither what the Reformers meant nor what the Reformed churches today mean by it.

2) Distinguishing between the Doctrinal and Historical Aspects of Sola Scriptura

Scott complains that Drs. Godfrey and White define Sola Scriptura in terms of the sufficiency of Scripture, which Scott feels leaves the “sola” out of Sola Scriptura. However, Scott seems to be unaware of the fact that the “sola” aspect of Sola Scriptura is not so much a doctrinal claim as an historical claim.

It’s unclear whether Scott is unaware of this, or not. I hope that he’s simply unaware of this, and that (now that it is pointed out to him) he’ll stop looking for a definition of Sola Scriptura in which the “sola” is a doctrinal claim.

There is, of course, a sense in which Sola Scriptura‘s definition includes sola. When we explain the formal sufficiency of Scripture, we are explaining that the Scriptures are themselves (i.e. alone) able to make one wise unto salvation.

That said, the full sense of Sola Scriptura is the application of the formal sufficiency of Scripture to a time in which there are no other sources of direct propositional revelation: for example, a time when the prophets are dead and Jesus is ascended.

3) Scott wrote: “This discussion is about sola scriptura, a statement like ‘you’re no better’ than we are is not a defense of sola scriptura (even if the statement were true).”

What Scott seems to miss with that comment is the fact that the argument “you’re no better” (if true) undermines the significance of the criticism. It’s kind of like if a “Protestant” were to argue: “clearly your (the Roman Catholic) rule of faith is wrong, since the pope isn’t God.” The Roman Catholic response might be to say, “OK but the Bible isn’t God, either.” That response doesn’t actually dispute the fact that the pope isn’t God, it just demonstrates that the criticism is misplaced as a criticism.

4) Scott wrote: “For nearly the first 400 years of Christendom the Canon of the New Testament was in flux. If it were so clear, why all the debates on the canon?”

a) There weren’t lots and lots of debates on the canon in the first 400 years. Or, at least, if there were we don’t have records of them. Even when there were some discussions about the canon, there was widespread agreement as to the bulk of the books.

b) The Canon itself wasn’t in flux. The Canon is an objective historical reality grounded in inspiration. The knowledge of that canon was more or less certain (generally progressively more certain as time progressed).

5) Steve had written: “Why does knowledge [of the canon of Scripture] have to be infallible? What’s wrong with plain old knowledge?” Scott replied: “I was going with James White’s definition which includes the term “infallible.””

This is another mistake on Scott’s part. Dr. White’s definition says that the Scripture itself is infallible. Dr. White didn’t say that we obtain an infallible knowledge from Scripture (and certainly not an infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture). Quite to the contrary, on one occasion Dr. White wrote:

Know for sure, or infallibly? I don’t know the exhaustive teachings of the Bible. I don’t have infallible knowledge of what the Bible teaches on *any* subject. But I do have *sufficient* knowledge of what the Bible teaches on the *central* subjects. The difference between infallibility and sufficiency is vitally important to recognize.


And on another occasion:

The Protestant openly admits his fallibility in approaching the infallible Scriptures.

You see, once Rome puts an interpretation of the Bible into writing (and there are precious few of these infallible interpretations around, I might add), that writing now becomes subject to interpretation. Shall we begin to look for an infallible interpreter of the infallible interpretation of the infallible Scriptures? The series would never end, of course, for one simply can’t get beyond one fact: we as human beings are fallible. And you, as an individual human being, will always be fallible in your knowledge of any infallible source, whether that be the Scriptures, or some other source you hold in esteem.


5) Canon Closure vs. Canon Recognition

Another area of confusion in Scott’s comments is on the difference between canon closure (when the last writer wrote the last book) and canon recognition (this was more gradual as to the worldwide church, for obvious reasons). Here’s the exchange:

[Scott now]: Except of course if it were true what Mr. Hays said earlier, that “the canon was closed by writer of the last book of the Bible,” at that point in time all the “raw materials” would have been available to generate this list – but he (that would be St. John) never put together such a list for us.

[Scott earlier]: “The truth of the matter is that for the first four hundred years of the Church the canon was not set…”

[Steve’s response]: i) Trobisch has argued on text-critical grounds that the NT canon was standardized in the mid-2C AD. For a useful summary and evaluation of his argument, see the discussion by Kellum, Quarles, and Kostenberger in their recent intro. to the NT.

[Scott now]: So now Mr. Hays posits the canon was not closed when the writer wrote the last book, and does not even put forth evidence it was “closed” but that it was “standardized” in the second century A.D. I suppose we can accept that as concession of the earlier point.

Notice that Steve is arguing that the recognized canon of the NT was possibly widely standardized as early as the 2nd century A.D. That recognition does not change the fact that objectively the canon was closed at the end of the writing of the last book.

Interestingly, it seems that Steve had already pointed this same thing out to Scott:

Steve continues: iii) Scott is also confusing internal evidence for the canon with various forms of ecclesiastical recognition.

Scott replies: Mr. Hays does not seem to understand what a “canon” is. A “canon” is an ecclesiastical form of recognition of a standardized list.

Scott is confused. The word “canon” can have that sense – but that is not the sense that it has in this discussion.

As Bruce Metzger explains:

By way of summary, ecclesiastical writers during the first three centuries used the word κανών [canon] to refer to what was for Christianity an inner law and binding norm of belief (`rule of faith’ and/or `rule of truth’). From the fourth century onward the word also came to be used in connection with the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments. Scholars today dispute whether the meaning ‘rule’ (that is, ‘standard’ or ‘norm’) or the meaning ‘list’ was uppermost in the minds of those who first applied the word to the Scriptures. According to Westcott and Beyer, it was the material content of the books that prompted believers to regard them as the ‘rule’ of faith and life. On the other hand, according to Zahn and Souter, the formal meaning of κανών [canon] as `a list’ was primary, for otherwise it would be difficult to explain the use of the verb κανονίζειν [kanonizein] (`to include in a canon’) when it is applied to particular books and to the books collectively. Both the material and the formal senses eventually were seen to be appropriate, for the recognized custom of the Church in looking to a certain group of books as providing the standard for faith and life would naturally cause the books that conformed to it to be written in a list. And thus the canon of Scripture became equivalent to the contents of the writings included in such a list.

– Bruce Manning Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 293.

6) 1611 KJV and the Apocrypha

Scott wrote:

Even the initial King James Version includes the deuterocanonicals – without putting them in a separate appendix, that would come later – and then later still they would be left out entirely.

This is highly misleading. Although the 1611 KJV did including the apocrypha, and though it didn’t use the mechanism of an appendix, it did place them in a separate section under the heading “The Bookes called Apocrypha” between the testaments (evidence), and the heading of every page in that section read: “Apocrypha. [Name of Book] Apocrypha.” or “Apocrypha. Chap.[chapter number] Apocrypha.” (evidence)

– TurretinFan

12 Responses to “Response to Scott Windsor (regarding Steve Hays and Sola Scriptura)”

  1. louis Says:

    "For nearly the first 400 years of Christendom the Canon of the New Testament was in flux. If it were so clear, why all the debates on the canon?"If we had reliably preserved Apostolic "oral tradition", why all the debates on the canon?

  2. CathApol Says:

    My response here: In JMJ,Scott<<<

  3. CathApol Says:

    Louis,I would say it was a matter of geography and the fact that the Catholic Church was persecuted by the Romans for the first 300 years. This made it rather difficult to form councils and make a unified decision on such matters. Three such local councils were convened in the 4th century, and the canon process essentially ended at that point. The same canon ratified in the 4th century is dogmatically defined by Trent in the 16th century. Note, this was not a new canon defined by Trent and Trent explicitly states the canon according to "the Old Latin Vulgate Version, which was by St. Jerome of the late 4th century. Why did Trent have to make this dogmatic decree? Because Protestantism was on a rampage and confusing faithful Catholics with a different canon. Trent ended any potential confusion for faithful Catholics. In JMJ,Scott<<<CathApol Blog

  4. Turretinfan Says:

    Scott wrote: "Note, this was not a new canon defined by Trent and Trent explicitly states the canon according to "the Old Latin Vulgate Version, which was by St. Jerome of the late 4th century.["]"Actually, it's not clear that this is what Trent was referring to.First, of course, Jerome didn't accept the Apocrypha as canonical in the strong sense.Second, there is good reason to think that this reference is a forward reference to the text that was to be produced by Sixtus V."Trent ended any potential confusion for faithful Catholics."You would think, yet Roman Catholic author Gary Michuta claims that Trent passed over in silence one of the books with respect to which the regional councils of Hippo and Carthage (two of the three councils you referred to above) differed. He alleges (in effect) that the canonical status that book is unresolved.Additionally, of course, the Nova Vulgata has departed in a number of ways (some more or less significant) both from the Sistine/Clementine Vulgate and (of course) from the Hieronymian Vulgate. So, while the names of the books may be the same, the content has changed.-TurretinFan

  5. natamllc Says:

    CathApol,in your response at your blog, you wrote:"….TF seems to be unaware of my argument that Scripture itself points us to another infallible source! The bishops! Matthew 18:18 shows us Jesus giving infallible authority to the bishops as a group – that whatsoever the bind or loose on Earth is bound or loosed in Heaven….".Huh?Apparently you do not have the ability to perceive what you are putting over as read from the Scriptures? Those bishops, well, if they are infallible, why did Jesus say this to them, them being in a "now" anointed state of infallibility?:::> Luk 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" Luk 10:18 And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luk 10:19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luk 10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Same story just from another infallible perspective!You see, your presumption that the bishops of the RCC have had gone through some magical experience and then anointed "infallible", in my opinion, is laughable.

  6. CathApol Says:

    TF: I beg to differ, Trent was quite explicit in naming the canon according to the Old Latin Vulgate. I cannot speak for other "Catholic authors" who make such claims. I know what Trent says as I'm sure you do as well. We know what the volume of the Old Latin Vulgate contains, St. Jerome's personal protests aside, and it is that list which was defined as canonical. natamllc, Sorry, but that's not "the same story" – the returning of the 70 apostles is not the same story as Jesus granting unto The Twelve the authority to bind and loose whatsoever they chose. Now there may be a similar authority here, as they too were apostles "sent out" by Jesus Himself – but it's not the same story. You are entitled to your opinion, and laugh if you wish. In JMJ,Scott<<<CathApol Blog

  7. natamllc Says:

    Cath,Well, I do see the distinction you make. I concede, you were speaking of the first Twelve and I was speaking of the second seventy, seventy two, depending on which translation you are reading.Now, would you concede that Jesus is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever and that there is no equivocation with Him, no shifting shadow with Him but He is a bulwark never failing?I am also glad to agree with you on this point that you make, as well:Cath: "….Now there may be a similar authority here, as they too were apostles "sent out" by Jesus Himself – but it's not the same story….".I, of course, will take it some steps further and modify that by saying: "Now there is the Same Christ giving to these the same authority to bind and loose on earth, seeing they came back rejoicing too, as the first twelve and being reminded by Our Dear Savior not to rejoice that they bind and loose demons, but that their names are written down in a Book in Heaven, thus qualifying them too, to receive such Authority from Him".Might I ask you, "Who" writes one's name down in that Book of Life found only in Heaven?I would go even further to the writings of Paul at the Book of Romans and chapter 15:::> Rom 15:15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God Rom 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. Rom 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience–by word and deed, Rom 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God–so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; Rom 15:20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, Rom 15:21 but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand." Now, we know because we believe the historical records that these three written Words, Matthew, Luke and Romans, were written down in the decade of the 50's A.D. and maybe Luke's writing crossed into the 60's somewhat? But, not to lose the effect, it is the Same Christ, giving His Authority to a bunch of nobodies, some, maybe one or too noble minded wretches, I suppose?But, you would also have to agree that those two, Matthew and Luke agreed with the Holy Spirit, Christ and God, as Paul taught at Romans 1:5 and at Romans 16:26, they fought the good fight and lived in the same obedience to the Faith once delivered to the Saints, would you not? Or, did they live by personal faith and persuasions of men?

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    "We know what the volume of the Old Latin Vulgate contains, St. Jerome's personal protests aside, and it is that list which was defined as canonical."The reference to the OLV was as to which version is authentic. That actually creates some greater problems for the Nova Vulgata.

  9. Scott Windsor Says:
  10. Scott Windsor Says:
  11. natamllc Says:
  12. natamllc Says:

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