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Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume II: An Historical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura Paperback – October, 2001
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"A work of immense value to anyone seeking to understand the high esteem in which the early Church held Scripture." -- Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA
"I predict this work will become THE standard work on the subject of the fathers and the authority of Scripture." -- Dr. Jay Adams, Co-Pastor of The Harrison Bridge Road A.R.P. Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina and editor-in-chief of Timeless Texts.
About the Author
William Webster is the Founder and Director of Christian Resources and author of several books dealing with Roman Catholicism, Church history, the Gospel and the Christian life.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first chapter Webster discusses how the early church fathers viewed Scripture, Tradition, and how they related to each other. He goes into depth on the views of such church fathers as: Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea, and especially Augustine. Webster also discusses and refutes the Roman Catholic (R.C. from now on) apologetic use of passages by these church fathers. R.C. apologists abuse these passages in a number of ways: they frequently cite such passages as these in isolation from the surrounding context, equivocate on terms such as "tradition", or a combination thereof. Next, he cites the view during the early to mid Middle Ages by noting the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, and historical scholars. The amount of research that went into this work was quite likely extensive. He cites many a historian (even Roman Catholic) on the issue. Something that should be noted (though I can't remember if Webster addresses it in here) is that while most Roman Catholic apologists argue very strongly for the historical claims of the Roman Catholic Church, many (if not most) Roman Catholic historical scholars concede that the early church did, in fact, believe that Scripture was the only infallible authority for the church in their day (and for us today). Webster cites several of these scholars throughout his work.
Webster writes more about the view of "tradition" in the early church. He also notes that differences over what was the "true" apostolic tradition arose very early on in the history of the Church. He cites several examples (i.e. the Easter Controversy, Cyprian and Stephen, Irenaeus and the Age of Jesus, etc.).
Here, he discusses the tradition OF interpretation (i.e. Alexandrian vs. Antiochene, Middle Ages, etc.). He notes that, despite the claims of Rome, there is no such thing as "the unanimous consent of the church fathers" on any issue except for maybe monotheism. [Before any DaVinci Code fanatics start jumping for joy, I must note that I am referring to deeper theological matters, not the historicity of the four Gospels or the other basics of Christianity.] He then discusses the misuse of church father passages by R.C. apologists. Next, he gives a summary of the major points of what the church fathers taught about Scripture (i.e. the continuity of the Testaments, the rule of faith, the perspicuity of Scripture, the principle of context in interpreting the Scriptures, the belief that Scripture interprets Scripture, Scripture declares its own meaning, and the need for all Christians to study Scripture). Lastly, he discusses the early church's view of councils.
Here, he discusses and refutes the claims of the Roman Church in light of the historical evidence. He notes that the interpretations of the typical "Papal" passages, Matt. 16:18 and Luke 22:32, were not interpreted in the Roman Catholic fashion by the vast majority of the early fathers. [In Appendix A, he includes a plethora of quotations by the early fathers which interpret Matthew 16:18 in a way differently than what Rome claims they did.] Next, he discusses one modern dogma of the Roman Church, the Assumption of Mary, which the early fathers believed was heresy (or rather, came from heretical writings). On this point he definitely could have been more extensive by citing other examples such as the veneration of images and icons. Lastly, he discusses the errant "infallible" declarations of the Popes in the early church. Here, he could have went on and cited some examples from the Medieval Era, but the ones that he cited (from the Roman era) were quite sufficient.
Webster then shows (by citing Roman Catholic theologians themselves) that, in the final analysis, the Roman Church doesn't care about grounding its dogmas in the Scriptures or the "unanimous consent of the church fathers". Too many of its beliefs are contradicted by the early church, and the Roman Church's Magesterium claims the right to interpret what is the right "tradition" (as opposed to the wrong "tradition") as well as the proper interpretation of Scripture anyway. In the end, the Roman Church declares Divine Truth to be whatever it says it is. Instead of sola Scriptura, it is sola ecclesia.
Chapters 6, 7, and 8
In Part 2 of this volume, Webster discusses the historic view of the apocrypha throughout the history of the Church. He notes that almost all the church fathers who had any serious historical knowledge of those books did not view them as part of the Old Testament. This shows that the Council of Trent (one of the many R.C. ecumenical councils) was in error in placing those books in the canon. For a detailed analysis of how the canon we have today came about, I would suggest Michael Green's "The Books the Church Suppressed". [For those suspicious of the title, it's an anti-Da Vinci Code book.] Although it doesn't address the issue that the King/Webster series addresses directly, it demolishes the notion that the Church created the canon.
Now, I would like to address one criticism found in one of the reviews below (P.J. Porvaznik). After making the typical high claims that the church fathers were very "Catholic" (another fallacy of equivocation and ipse dixit), Porvaznik states that Webster's work would lead one to believe that the early fathers were Protestant. However, neither Webster nor King does any such thing. Both authors acknowledge that the church fathers are a very mixed bag of theological beliefs and many held different views than modern Protestants. [Though that varies greatly with the age in which a specific father wrote. The earliest (i.e. apostolic) fathers would agree much more with Protestants.] However, they are certainly not Roman Catholic since most of the fathers would repudiate half the Roman Church's dogma (or at least that which is in conflict with Protestant doctrine), especially on the issue of the sufficiency of Scripture. Another criticism of Porvaznik is that, while King and Webster like to cite the church fathers and agree with them on this subject, they don't like to do so when the fathers agree with Roman Catholicism. However, this is either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of the argument. The argument is not that Protestants believe in sola Scriptura because it was believed by the church fathers; rather, the argument seeks to undermine the R.C. argument from the "unanimous consent of the church fathers". Protestants would believe in sola Scriptura anyway, but historical backup doesn't hurt. The Roman Catholic, on the other hand, MUST have agreement with the church fathers since their arguments against Protestantism attempt to rely on the history and historical interpretation of the church.
This work is a must-have for any Protestant/Evangelical who doesn't know much about the church fathers and is discussing this issue with a R.C.
Volume 1 deals with the biblical evidence for sola Scripture and until reading it I hadn't really considered all the ancillary doctrines that affect sola Scripture. In this volume David King covers revelation (Catholic and Protestant views), exegesis of primary New Testament texts, New Testament meaning of tradition, Scripture the only infallible norm, Scripture the only certain norm, material sufficiency of Scripture, formal sufficiency of Scripture, final authority (Catholic and Protestant views), and common misrepresentations of sola Scriptura. These are all major categories that are further broken down into numerous sub-categories. For instance at one point under the major category of Scripture the only certain norm, King deals with an accusation against the integrity of Scripture by a well-known Catholic apologist. King systematically destroys this argument by a barrage of evidence to show the charge is baseless. He uses Jesus Christ, the church fathers, contemporary Protestant scholars, and even Catholic scholars! By the time King finishes one is left in amazement that anyone who has seriously studied the issue would doubt or attempt to assail the veracity of the Scriptures. King is never a lone ranger in his interpretation or conclusions, but always has one or more of the aforementioned witnesses to confirm his reasoning. Therefore, for the non-Protestant who thinks this will be a futile exercise of Protestants reading their belief into Scripture you will be in for a surprise. King consistently confirms his exegesis and conclusions with fathers, theologians, and scholars from many different camps.
After reading volume one you might wonder what more is there to know in order to defend or believe in sola Scriptura? Well, if anyone has discussed this issue with Catholics you know the answer, church history and church fathers. William Webster steps up to the challenge of showing that sola Scriptura is not the novelty that one often hear it is, but it is rooted in the beliefs of the early church. The most confusing issue when discussing the role of Scripture and tradition in the early church is what does the fathers mean when they use the word "tradition". To one not familiar with the writings of the early fathers and the meaning of this single word it can and has been greatly misused. Webster contends that this word was used in the following ways by the early church:
1) The apostolic teaching handed down by the Apostles, called the apostolic tradition
2) Ecclesiastical customs and practices.
3) Patristic consensus of the interpretation of Scripture way.
For the next 200 plus pages he goes through the work of the early fathers. Webster not only demonstrates that this is the way the word "tradition" was used, but he also shows that "tradition" in no way invalidates the early church's belief in Scripture as the sole infallible source that all doctrines must be proved by. In addition to the previous discussion Webster also devotes two chapters to Rome's authority claim in part 1. He shows how Catholicism has abandoned her unanimous consent of the fathers to guide her interpretations and doctrines. Instead the Catholic Church's guide is whatever the current magisterium says. Part 2 of this volume is dedicated to the Canon of the Old Testament. Webster lays out an extremely convincing case that the OT Canon was settled by the Jews at 22 books. He shows that the majority of church fathers and theologians up to the time of the Reformation agreed with Jerome that there were two concepts of the word canon. The Apocrypha was considered canon, but not in the strict sense of the word canon as the other books of the Hebrew canon. Webster amasses an overwhelming list of fathers and church theologians that are in agreement with his contention.
In volume 3 we are presented with a catena of quotes from the early church fathers in reference to sola Scriptura. The topics include material sufficiency of Scripture, Scripture as the ultimate authority, the perspicuity of Scripture, the self-interpreting nature of Scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual believers life to understand the Scriptures, and the necessity of private reading of Scripture for the sanctification of the individual. A quick skimming of this volume alone should cause one to think twice before affirming the early church knew nothing of sola Scriptura. In each section you will read men such as Ireneaus, Athanasius, Jerome, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, and others claim the truths Protestants have been defending since the Reformation.
In conclusion, King and Webster have set a new standard for the discussion of sola Scriptura. . I believe the greatness of this work is that no one can accuse them of coming up with some theological novelty. This is true because they constantly validate their interpretations of the Scriptures and church history with Protestants scholars, Catholic scholars, church fathers, and or/and church theologians. Protestants should devour this work so that they will be equipped to give an answer for their beliefs as commanded by the Scriptures. Anyone else who is involved with discussions on this important matter should also read this work, because there is no doubt it will become the standard for all sola Scriptura discussions.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
He doesn't know what he has written.
Simply a heresy!
A good point made by King is the ambiguity in the word "tradition" as used by various Catholic scholars and apologists.Read more