First we should define what we mean by Sola Scriptura. In essence we mean that in the Bible God has graciously given His Church a sure and certain guide, a final Arbiter, a perfect vehicle of revelation that is without fault and without error. In all matters that bind the consciences of believers, in all matters that settle theological disputes, in all matters that guide us in what we are to believe and do, God has given us His revelation in the written Word of God. Scripture and Scripture only is the sure and sufficient guide and rule for all matters of doctrine and practice. As the Reformers used to say, “Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum.” What is not Biblical is not theological.
The Reformers recognized that God’s word was not always written. There was a time when it was oral. But the principle of Sola Scriptura affirms that those days are over. God has consummated the revelation by which He wishes His Church to live and definitively committed it to writing. Sola Scriptura does not deny that in matters of custom, the practice of God’s people for centuries may have weight with us, but rather it affirms that those traditions must be judged by Scripture and Scripture is never judged by those traditions. The most important feature of Sola Scriptura is that we believe that everything that is necessary for salvation will be found in the Bible. If it is not Biblical, it is not part of Christian belief. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” I ask: what else is there outside of doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and preparation for holy living? Is this not the entirety of Christian doctrine and practice? The word rendered “perfect” is the Greek word ἄρτιος, which means complete. If no other relevant passage of Scripture existed, this would be sufficient to put the final nail in the coffin of the Romish imposture concerning Scripture and tradition.
Ever since Rome began crafting her elaborate system of apostasy, she has feared the Bible; that is why she attacked Sola Scriptura at the very outset of the Reformation. In fact, even as far back as 1229 at the Council of Valencia, Rome placed the Bible on the Index of Forbidden Books in response to minuscule attempts to get the Vulgate in the languages of the people. This was before the printing press! Why does Rome fear the Bible? Because there is not one single distinctive Roman Catholic dogma that is founded on Scripture! Every single one, from Mariolatry, to the vile blasphemy of the Mass, to the veneration of images, to the doctrine of Purgatory, to works of supererogation, to auricular confession to a priest - all of them stem from a nonexistent unwritten "Sacred Tradition."
This “Tradition” is a supposed body of oral truth passed on by the Apostles to their successors, the Bishops of the Roman church, but especially to the Bishop of Rome, which has been kept pure by them throughout the ages. In the words of Vatican II: “In order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, handing over their own teaching role to them.” Let me interject here that this in direct contradiction to the Bible! Hebrews 4:12 says that Scripture is “quick and powerful.” It does not need an oral tradition entrusted to bishops to be effectual and alive. Are we to believe that the Bishops of Rome have kept the Gospel wholly pure when we know for a fact that many of them were heretics, atheists, profligates and murderers?
Vatican II continues, “This Sacred Tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments, are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from Whom She has received everything until She is brought finally to see Him as He is face to face. Therefore, the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast the tradition which they had learned either by word of mouth or by letters (2 Thess. 2:15). This Tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit to the successors of the Apostles. Sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s Word. And consequently, it is not from the Scripture alone draws Her certainty about everything which has been revealed.”
Hence we see the utter hypocrisy and imposture of Rome when she claims to believe the Bible and that it is the word of God, for clearly she places her own “Tradition” above Scripture as its judge and interpreter. Therefore, Tradition outweighs Scripture as the source of Romish dogma. Indeed Rome’s Tradition is outranked by the Pope, since he alone decides what this Tradition contains. Every new papal bull (an accurate term if ever there was one!) asserts that what the Pope is now teaching is in accordance with this Tradition. No one could ever verify this since he claims to be the sole possessor of it. Talk about a ‘fixed fight.” When Protestants claim that the difference between us and the Roman Catholics is that we believe in Scripture alone and Catholics believe in Scripture plus tradition, they are missing the point. The fact is that Rome places herself above both Scripture and her "Tradition."
The favorite argument of Romish apologists against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is their assertion that the Bible doesn't teach it. This is the most brazen piece of two-faced nonsensical hogwash imaginable. I think I am being kind in stating it that nicely. The unspoken assumption is that if you can prove Sola Scriptura from the Bible then Rome will accept it. But once they say that they have ceded the argument. It is nothing but a diabolical, hypocritical, convoluted piece of sophistry. If Papists would be willing to accept the truth of Sola Scriptura upon the explicit teaching of the Bible, then why won't they submit their other whoredoms to the bar of Scripture? If Rome could produce Scripture for her abominations, do you think she would ever make the crass appeal to some mysterious, unwritten tradition? If the Romish apologists are willing to believe that Scriptural proof is sufficient when it comes to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, why are they not willing to hold the same position in regard to the doctrines of the Mass, Purgatory, Indulgences or Merit?
Here are Rome’s biblical “proofs” that the Bible does not claim to be sufficient. And let me just interject here that again this is horrendously blatant hypocrisy. Rome pretends to make an appeal to Scripture, and to believe that this is sufficient! Indeed she is actually trying to make Scripture testify against itself. Here are her “proofs”:
• John 21:25 – “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
Based on this Rome asks: How could the Bible be sufficient if there is so many things not written down? No Protestant in his right mind would deny that Jesus did things that are not in the Bible, nor that the Apostles knew things that are not in the Bible. What we are affirming however, is that all that the Lord has made necessary for salvation is recorded in Scripture. This passage does not give the slightest ghost of a loophole for Rome’s position. If the Magisterium of Rome is all they say it is, and if Tradition is all they say it is, why would there be a need for any authoritative written revelation from God? No Romish apologist has ever tackled that question.
Never mind the fact that oral tradition always gets corrupted. The farther one gets from the source, the worse it gets. But when an oral tradition is all one has, this tradition can get corrupted even at the very source itself. When Israel was in the wilderness, they apostatized to golden calf worship within 40 days during Moses’ absence. If Israel, with only an oral revelation, and on the heels of a miraculous deliverance from Egypt, could degenerate so quickly - would we not have to be deranged to believe that Rome has kept Tradition pure for nearly 2000 years? This is sheer idiocy! That is why God selected what was necessary for salvation and committed it to writing.
• 1 Corinthians 11:2, 34 “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you… And the rest will I set in order when I come.”
From this passage, Rome asserts that there are ordinances which are not written in Scripture. But I would ask: By what stretch of the imagination can they infer that from these verse? Who is to say that the ordinances to which Paul is referring are not the very ones he is addressing in this epistle?
• 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
Protestants would believe any Apostolic teaching. If Paul came into a church and said, “This is a truth from God,” we would believe it. But the question is: How do we know an Apostolic teaching? It is easy to identify it as such if it is written. But if someone comes along 1800 years after Paul has died and says, “This is an Apostolic tradition,” how am I to know that this is in fact true? The only way to know and verify it is to judge it by Scripture. Period!
• 2 Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
This, Rome says, is supposed to undermine Sola Scriptura. I defy anyone to defend a position, even in a small claims court, on such flimsy evidence, and see how far he gets!
• John 20:31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:”
Here again, Rome appeals to unwritten tradition. Certainly, at the beginning of the Apostolic era Gospel truth was largely in an oral format. The Apostles preached before they wrote. But the evidence indicates that the Apostles set about writing their Gospels and Epistles at a very early stage. But more to the point is John’s statement in the very next verse. John says, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Here we have a definitive Apostolic clarification that, whatever Jesus may have done or said that is not recorded in Scripture, what is recorded is sufficient for faith and practice. Let Rome put that in her pipe and smoke it!
As I said earlier, if Rome’s apologists could establish the doctrines of Purgatory, merit, supererogation, a sacrificing priesthood and the rights and privileges of the papacy, they would not be expending so much energy on tradition. They know that if the appeal was made to Scripture alone, the whole ship of their carefully crafted system of religion would be sunk.