Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sola Scriptura and the Jehovah's Witnesses

It seems that the kinds of arguments that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use mostly rest on a version of the sola scriptura doctrine – i.e., the teaching that the Bible, alone, is authoritative for the faith and practice of the believer.  I’ll mention only six ways in which I think this approach is inadequate. 

  • First, and most obviously, the Bible itself doesn’t teach sola scriptura (thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura is self-contradictory) (see here).
  • Third, regarding the notion that it’s evil to celebrate holidays that aren’t explicitly sanctioned in the Scriptures, there’s no scriptural (or logical) basis for this teaching (once again, sola scriptura is contradicted here). 
  • Fourth, St. Paul tells us that the Church (and not the Bible) is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). 
  • Fifth, this approach begs the following question: if God wished to communicate Truth through one medium, alone, why would He choose one that was inaccessible to most people?  Most early Christians were illiterate and without personal copies of the Scriptures (see here). 
  • Sixth, this approach is ignorant of how Christian truth was taught in the early years of Christianity, when the New Testament, as we now know it, did not even exist (see here).  It was not until 367 that the 27 books that comprise the New Testament cannon were first identified (by St. Athanasius).  How, then, was the faith taught throughout the first several centuries of Christianity?  It was taught through the Church – particularly the Fathers and Saints who experienced theosis (or glorification, as it is called in the West) - which predated the New Testament.  It was the Church who authored and recognized the inspiration of the books of the Christian Bible, and it is the Church (not isolated individuals guided by the Holy Spirit, nor the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses) that has the final authority in interpreting it.