“14 But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, 15 and that from infancy you have known [the] sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Tim 3:14-17)
(2 Tim 3:14-17)
The most damaging criticism of sola scriptura is the reality that the Bible doesn’t teach it. This leads to an absurdity. Those who believe in sola scriptura claim that everything that is essential for a Christian to know is clearly taught in the Bible. However, the Bible does not teach that everything that is essential for a Christian to know is clearly taught in the Bible.
The passage that is most often cited as a proof text by those who support sola scriptura is 2 Tim 3:15-17. Let’s examine that passage beginning with its immediate context. Paul is clearly instructing Timothy and the church in Ephesus to be a faithful witness during difficult times. There is no indication anywhere in this Epistle that he is contrasting Sacred Scripture with other sources of revelation, or even discussing the subject.
In addition, the “Scriptures” with which Timothy has been acquainted “from childhood” (verse 15) refers to the Old Testament. Are we to believe that St. Paul is teaching that the Old Testament constitutes the only source needed to know what Jesus taught?
Secondly, Paul has many important things to say about the scriptures. They “are able to instruct you for salvation in Christ Jesus” (v.15). However, he doesn’t claim that only the scriptures can instruct one for salvation in Christ Jesus. “All scripture is inspired by God” (v.16), but Paul does not claim that only scriptures are inspired by God. Paul also affirms that scripture is “useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (v.17), but he never asserts that only scripture is so useful.
Thirdly, This passage doesn’t teach formal sufficiency, which excludes a binding, authoritative role for Tradition and Church. Protestants extrapolate onto the text what isn’t there. If we look at the overall context of this passage, in 2 Timothy alone, Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (1:13-14, 2:2, and 3:14). And to use an analogy, let’s examine a very similar passage:
Ephesians 4:11-15 (RSV) - And His gifts were that some should be Apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are able to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.
As you can see, advocates of the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura (the “Bible only” theory) have a problem on their hands here.