Today’s readings reminded me of one of the major problems that most non-Catholic Christians have with their idea that Scripture is to be our final authority in right-Christian living as well as finding out what is to be believed as doctrinally true.
Let’s set aside the fact that this rule can nowhere be found in our Scriptures (the Bible) and therefore defeats its own rule. What I mean by that is if our final authority in determining what is doctrinally true is the Bible then this rule ought to be found in our Bible. And it isn’t. What I found in today’s readings that reminded me of this was the fact that not only is this rule of ‘Sola Scriptura’ not found in Scripture but Scripture itself teaches something that is opposite of this premise.
In the first reading from today we find Ezra the priest lift up the Scriptures of the time to the people and begins reading it to them. As we can see, Scriptures are indeed very important since they are the written Word of God but Ezra not only “read plainly from the book of the law of God” he also interpreted it “so that all could understand what was read.” (Neh 8:8)
Even in the Old Testament times we see a need for some in authority to interpret the Scriptures so that we all may understand it properly. Before the time of Jesus these interpreters ended up misapplying the Scriptures and erred on matters of faith and morals when interpreting the written Word of God. Since Jesus came to ‘fix’ the problems of the times, does this mean that we shouldn’t have an authority to help us understand Scripture properly? By no means! Jesus came to ‘fix’ the problems, that is he came to fulfill, not to destroy the old system.
The reason that the Jews veered off course in understanding the written Word of God is because they hadn’t receive the promise of God that they would be guided into all truth as the leaders of the new Kingdom, that is His Church (John 16:13). When Jesus instituted His Church here on earth, he fulfilled what was lacking previously. He promised them that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Mat 18:18). Since nothing untrue can be bound in heaven, we understand Jesus’ statement to mean that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into binding and loosing the faithful in an infallible manner on matters of faith and morals.
Jesus tells His followers that the last authority in guiding fellow Christians to the truth is the Church (Mat 18:15-17) and so when a major disagreement arose between Paul and some judaizers, those judaizers and Paul were sent to the Church to settle the matter which we now call the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:2). Their decision in settling the matter was guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) and was binding not only for the local congregation but to all the faithful (Acts 16:4). We see examples of these councils throughout history all the way up to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s. Since the Church is the final authority, Paul describes the Church, not the Scriptures, as being the upholder and standard of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). Therefore the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) is not only nowhere found in our Bible, it is actually contrary to what the Bible teaches.