Sola Scriptura and Unity Debate

(UPDATE: the audio issues seem to be fixed – you may need to refresh your browser if you tried to view previously) The debate below took place April 10, 2010, between William Albrecht (Roman Catholic) and myself. The resolution was: “Does Sola Scriptura foster disunity and division in the [Christian] body?” This resolution was originally proposed by Steve Ray. Albrecht took the affirmative position and I took the negative position. While the constructive speeches may be of interest, I think both sides will most appreciate the lengthy cross-examination segments, which make up 4/7 of the debate.

If the above doesn’t work:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7



26 Responses to “Sola Scriptura and Unity Debate”

  1. Godismyjudge Says:

    Looking forward to listening… so now that your docket is cleared…. back to Romans 9?God be with you,Dan

  2. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Part 1TurretinFan,First, let me say that whatever I say here is for the general readership of your blog, taking into account the varying levels of knowledge regarding things such as Presbyterian polity. My comments are not judgements of your levels of knowledge, which I consider to be far superior to my own anyway.Thank you for a (mostly) enjoyable debate once again. I confess, however, a fairly high level of frustration while listening. You hinted at the problem a number of times during the debate and got quite specific during your closing statement: how do we define unity? I understand that the question of unity, in itself, was not the topic. I wish, though, that there could have been some kind of agreement between you and Mr. Albrecht beforehand on what constitues unity. On the other hand, I think the exchange was valuable in that it demonstrates, and I think Mr. Albrecht is a typical example of this, that Catholic apologists understand that unity equals fellowship, and that disunity equals disfellowship. You pointed out nicely that disagreements do not necessarily lead to disfellowship. RCC unity, apparently, means no doctrinal differences or dissensions of any kind whatsoever.But let's ask about this concept of fellowship as well. My church (OPC) is a member of NAPARC, the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. I suspect yours is as well. NAPARC's "Basis of the Council" says:Confessing Jesus Christ as only Savior and Sovereign Lord over all of life, we affirm the basis of the fellowship of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches to be full commitment to the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God written, without error in all its parts and to its teaching as set forth in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms. That the adopted basis of fellowship be regarded as warrant for the establishment of a formal relationship of the nature of the council, that is, a fellowship that enables the constituent churches to advise, council, and cooperate in various matters with one another and hold out before each other the desirability and need for organic union of churches that are of like faith and practice.These are the member churches:Associate Reformed Presbyterian ChurchCanadian Reformed ChurchesFree Reformed Churches of North AmericaHeritage Reformed CongregationsKorean-American Presbyterian ChurchOrthodox Presbyterian ChurchPresbyterian Church in AmericaReformed Church in the U.S.Reformed Presbyterian Church of North AmericaThe Reformed Church of Quebec (l'Église Réformée du Québec)United Reformed ChurchesThat's a tremendous amount of people that I'll never know personally in this lifetime, and yet, I am reliably told that I can be "in fellowship," that is, "in unity" with them regarding doctrine and practice. How could this possibly be given Mr. Albrecht's apparent definitions of unity and fellowship? And obviously, there are many, many more denominations and groups with which I would be quite happy doctrinally.(cont.)

  3. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Part 2I heard the spectre of the bogus "33,000 denominations" argument trying to raise its ugly head. You dealt with the perspecuity of Scripture to some extent in your closing argument. I would like to have heard you pounce on the fact that most groups outside conservative Protestantism have other primary sources which effectively have authority over the Scriptures. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, for example, fall into this category, both of which are included, as you know, in that 33,000 figure. Now I understand that Mr. Albrecht did not use the 33,000 figure, but he also doesn't seem to understand that things like the use of the Book of Mormon on a par with the Bible nullifies for Mormons the principle of Sola Scriptura. I think this needs to be emphasised. Just because they are loosely labeled a "Protestant group" doesn't mean that they hold to or practice Sola Scriptura.In addition, I would like to see you (or someone) really get into John 17 regarding the issue of unity in Jesus' High Priestly prayer. I'm guessing you've already blogged on this at some point–I don't recall. But would you say that the unity Christ prays for is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who was to come and Who would bind all true believers together in Christ? Or is that only one aspect of Christ's prayer? The question remains, did the Father answer Jesus' prayer or not? Did Jesus fail in His prayer regarding unity? I would like to hear some real debate on this issue of the true definition of unity, which I see as the most fundamental issue related to any debate on Sola Scriptura.Thanks again, and keep up the great work! Please think about, and I hope you will consider, a debate with Mr. Albrecht (or someone) on what Jesus meant by unity in John 17.Blessings in Christ,Pilgrimsarbour

  4. Turretinfan Says:

    PA:On the 33,000 denominations point, there's a good article (not by me) here: (link).I addressed John 17 here: (link).-TurretinFan

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    Dan:That is something I would like to do, although (as you recognize, I think) it will take a lot of time.-TurretinFan

  6. Rhology Says:

    I have to say that I think the two articles I wrote on these topics are worth at least a skim if you haven't read 'em before.

  7. Turretinfan Says:

    Good point, Rhology!

  8. SeanPatrick Says:

    Odd that you want to be on the forefront. Calling people out, challenging people to debates…all the while being anonymous. Why is that?

  9. Turretinfan Says:

    Which part is hard for you to understand, Sean Patrick? Defending the faith or doing so without making it about me?-TurretinFan

  10. SeanPatrick Says:

    I think I asked a pretty legitimate question.People are going to go on Youtube and see a person with a picture and a name debate….a cartoon character?It looks odd.It isn't about you but rather a question. On the one hand you seem to be trying to be public. On the other hand you go out of your way to hide your identity.

  11. Turretinfan Says:

    "I think I asked a pretty legitimate question."I think my response is legitimate as well. I go out of my way not to make this about me, but for some reason you seem to act as though it ought to be about me."People are going to go on Youtube and see a person with a picture and a name debate….a cartoon character?"I'm not sure what to tell you. Unless this is supposed to be some sort of desperate ad hominem, I'm not sure what to make of it."It looks odd."There's no accounting for taste."It isn't about you but rather a question."oh? let's see how you explain how this is not about me …"On the one hand you seem to be trying to be public."Public about what? About the Gospel? Ok … yes, I'm public about the Gospel. About myself? Not at all. Yet this *seems* to confuse you, though if this is all supposed to be some sort of ad hominem … "On the other hand you go out of your way to hide your identity."See above.Unless you have something new to say, please leave off what appears to be nothing more than the last ditch ad hominem argument.-TurretinFan

  12. SeanPatrick Says:

    I didn't even listen to the debate TFAN. So, not sure what I would be bringing an ad hom against. If you think its perfectly reasonable to have a picture of him juxtaposed against a cartoon picture of yourself (with an anonymous handle) than sorry for making the observation.I see the big guns come out when somebody asks about that so, sorry to have asked.

  13. SeanPatrick Says:

    I mean, just listen to the first one…"Welcome to the debate. Today's topic is…On the Catholic side we have William Albrecht…On the Protestant side we have…Turettin Fan?"There are a lot of debates on youtube. I bet you are the only anonymous debater. I just think that is curious.

  14. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Sean Patrick,I think the problem is that you tend to state things in an unnecessarily accusatory way:Odd that you want to be on the forefront. Calling people out, challenging people to debates…all the while being anonymous. Why is that?At least, that is the way I read it, and I suspect it appears that way to TF as well, hence, his response. Perhaps you did not intend it that way, though I probably would have responded similarly if it were addressed to me.Blessings in Christ,Pilgrimsarbour

  15. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Anyone got any idea why the timestamp says 4:00 in the morning, for crying out loud? I still can't figure it…

  16. Turretinfan Says:

    "I didn't even listen to the debate TFAN."I guess I shouldn't be surprised."So, not sure what I would be bringing an ad hom against."You'd be bringing them against me, of course. Ad hominems are always about people, not the substance. I'm surprised you're not aware of that. "If you think its perfectly reasonable to have a picture of him juxtaposed against a cartoon picture of yourself (with an anonymous handle) than sorry for making the observation."You can keep that kind of empty-hearted apology for yourself. I'm not the least interested in it."I see the big guns come out when somebody asks about that so, sorry to have asked."That sounds more like you regret the fact that we've identified your latest ad hominem. That's how it sounds – while the truth may be that you are sincerely sorry.Accordingly, I'll provide you with a fitting acceptance of your apology namely that it is accepted to the extent you have admitted you wronged me. I'm over the issue either way. I simply insist that you don't comment further on this particular blog post till you've heard the debate (fat chance!).-TurretinFan

  17. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Relative to TFan's location?

  18. Turretinfan Says:

    PA: That's what GMT with daylight savings is. If I could just find a way to turn off the daylight savings I would.

  19. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    I guess it doesn't really matter–I felt a little self-conscious that people would think I'm up a 4:00 a.m. doodling inanities on someone's blog. It's the 4:00 a.m., not the inanities that I'm self conscious about. :-)

  20. SeanPatrick Says:

    You can keep that kind of empty-hearted apology for yourselfI am not apologizing for merely asking a question. You are purposefully an anonymous internet personality. I did not realize that merely asking you about it was such a sacred cow. I haven't listened to the debate, yet, because I haven't had the time. My asking you about you going out of your way to be anonymous is not an ad hom. Just a question. Sheepers.

  21. Turretinfan Says:

    Sean Patrick,I'm not interested in playing your games. My comments above fully address the matter.PA,LOL- TurretinFan

  22. Pilgrimsarbour Says:

    Sean Patrick,Try to think about how your comments appear to readers here. The very first thing you posted was an accusation that TF is not motivated by humility to do what he does:Odd that you want to be on the forefront.Mr. Albrecht doesn't seem to think it's a problem. If he did, he would not debate TF at all.Calling people out, challenging people to debates…How do you know just who exactly proposed this debate in the first place? I'm sure TF would tell us that Mr. Albrecht, as much or more than he, wants these debates and often proposes them first himself.Just hoping you'll go back and carefully reassess your statements to see if they could possibly be taken the wrong way. As it is, you sound like you're sitting in judgement. It's kind of bad form, old boy, to come on someone else's blog for the first time and make (especially ill-informed) accusations.Think about it.Blessings in Christ,Pilgrimsarbour

  23. Matthew Bellisario Says:

    If I were Turretin Fan I would not want my identity known either.

  24. Turretinfan Says:

    "If I were Turretin Fan I would not want my identity known either."The ad hominem continues, I see.

  25. Doug Says:

    TurretinfanThanks for the debate! I just had the matter of Sola Scriptura brought up to me by someone who is Eastern Orthodox. He spoke much of the original church that has been around for 1900 years and the reformed beliefs which have been around for 500 and have caused so much division. He also talked about how all the "divisions" in the protestant church shows error in understanding scripture and how without a church council everybody just understands it to fit their own taste. One thing that did surprise me was the amount of anti reformed apologetic study guides and literature from the church this person had. His guns were loaded for sure.All of that to say this debate came at the perfect time for me and gave me many great tools and ways to shape the discussion when I speak with this gentleman again.Thank You!Doug

  26. Rhology Says:

    Doug,I just finished a full debate with an EO on Sola Scriptura. Feel free to read it if you like, and I hope it proves helpful!

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