Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #10: “Don’t Go Beyond What is Written”

Today, we continue our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his five-part section on Scripture and Tradition with this next chapter countering Protestants’ arguments against Catholicism’s “Sacred Traditions” by which Protestants warn, “Don’t Go Beyond What is Written.”

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In this chapter, Broussard presents the Bible verse below that evangelical Protestants commonly use to warn against alleged divinely-inspired, extra-biblical sources such as Catholicism’s “Sacred Tradition.”

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” – 1 Corinthians 4:6

Broussard remarks that Protestants use this verse as a proof that the apostle Paul “makes written Scripture the parameter beyond which we are not free to go in order to derive knowledge about God’s revelation.”

Broussard first argument is that Paul’s intention was surely not to dismiss “tradition” because elsewhere he instructs believers to “maintain” (1 Corinthians 11:2) and “hold to” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) the “traditions” he had taught them. He argues that all of Paul’s verbal teachings to the churches at Corinth, Thessalonica, and elsewhere during his 20-year ministry could not have possibly been included in his written epistles and therefore concludes that some of his unrecorded teachings were handed down orally as some of the basis for “Sacred Tradition.”

The Catholic apologist then argues that Protestants themselves are divided on the interpretation of the “what is written” portion of the verse and he provides several possibilities. He concludes that because Protestant scholars are divided on the interpretation of the verse, that it cannot be used to support the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

In answer to his first rebuttal, Broussard is reintroducing arguments he’s already exhausted previously by using 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15 as his proof texts for ” Sacred Tradition.” As I pointed out in my review of chapter 7 (see here), Paul was exhorting the believers at Thessalonica and Corinth to follow his paradoseis/paradosin (Greek – teachings/teaching). He was NOT referring to “tradition” as some vaunted, gnostic repository in the Roman Catholic sense. Few evangelicals would argue that every single teaching that Paul delivered to the churches orally is included in his written epistles, however Gospel Christians can be confident that the Holy Spirit has provided in God’s Word all of the teaching that we need in order that “the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Untethered from the sole authority of Scripture, the Catholic church has used “Sacred Tradition” as carte blanche for every novel doctrine it concocts.

In his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 4:6, evangelical pastor, John MacArthur interprets “what is written” in context with the chapter as follows: “God’s faithful servants are to be treated with respect only within the bounds of what is scriptural (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17).”* I believe that’s actually a very good interpretation, Mr. Broussard. No muss, no fuss. While 1 Cor. 4:6 may not be the best Biblical text in support of Sola Scriptura, Paul does refer to Scripture as the ultimate authority in the context of the passage.

Important: Karl Broussard writes confidently in defense of his church’s “Sacred Traditions,” but what he purposely fails to mention to his readers is that the current pope is creating quite a stir within the Catholic church by amending and/or abrogating various doctrines/traditions previously thought to be unchangeable. As Broussard attempts to rebut the Biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura and defend the notion of divinely authorized “Sacred Tradition,” his own pope is pulling the carpet out from underneath him! That’s NOT a small matter, my friends!

Next up: “Don’t Add to God’s Word”

*The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 2005, p. 1571

36 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #10: “Don’t Go Beyond What is Written”

  1. Romanists will always claim that the early fathers were more “Catholic” than Protestant, to which my reply will be, yes they were catholic, but not a bunch of Romanists.

    I am confident that they would condemn Broussard for his false teaching.

    Cyril of Jerusalem (318-386): Now do not fix your attention on any skill of language on my part, for perhaps you may be deceived; unless you get the testimony of the prophets on each point, do not believe what is said. Unless you learn from the Holy Scriptures regarding the Virgin, the place, the time, the manner, “do not receive the witness of man.” For one who is now present and teaches may be open to suspicion; but what man of sense will suspect him who prophesied a thousand years ago and more? If then you seek the reason for Christ’s coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures. Fathers of the Church, Vol. 61, Catechesis XII.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, Inc., 1969), p. 229.

    Cyril of Jerusalem (318-386): It must therefore belong to Jesus Christ’s grace itself to grant both to us to speak without deficiency, and to you to hear with discretion; for discretion is needful not to them only who speak, but also to them that hear, lest they hear one thing, and misconceive another in their mind. Let us then speak concerning the Holy Ghost nothing but what is written; and whatsoever is not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Let us therefore speak those things which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say. NPNF2: Vol. VII, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XVI.2, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 317

    Cyril of Jerusalem (318-386): Have thou ever in thy mind this seal , which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures. NPNF2: Vol. VII, Cyril of Jerusalem´s Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV:17, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 136-137

    Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379): What our fathers said, the same say we, that the glory of the Father and of the Son is common; wherefore we offer the doxology to the Father with the Son. But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you. NPNF2, Vol. 8, Basil, On the Holy Spirit 7.16. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 160

    Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379): Concerning the Hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided. Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, Basil, Ascetical Works, The Morals, Rule 72, pp. 185–186

    Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395): What word, then, of the inspired Scripture has taught us the manifold and multiform character of what we understand in speaking of the soul? Is it a unity composed of them all, and, if so, what is it that blends and harmonizes things mutually opposed, so that many things become one, while each element, taken by itself, is shut up in the soul as in some ample vessel?…For when you take from a body its color, its shape, its degree of resistance, its weight, its quantity, its position, its forces active or passive, its relation to other objects, what remains, that can still be called a body, we can neither see of ourselves, nor are we taught it by Scripture…Wherefore Holy Scripture omits all idle inquiry into substance as superfluous and unnecessary (NPNF2.,Vol. 5, Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book). Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 496-497

    Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395): They allege that while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead. And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so. But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it. What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. <b?Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. NPNF2, Vol. V, Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Trinity, and of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 608

    Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395): The Christian Faith, which in accordance with the command of our Lord has been preached to all nations by His disciples, is neither of men, nor by men, but by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself….He, I say, appeared on earth and ‘conversed with men,’ that men might no longer have opinions according to their own notions about the Self–existent, formulating into a doctrine the hints that come to them from vague conjectures, but that we might be convinced that God has truly been manifested in the flesh, and believe that to be the only true ‘mystery of godliness,’ which was delivered to us by the very Word and God, Who by Himself spoke to His Apostles, and that we might receive the teaching concerning the transcendent nature of the Deity which is given to us, as it were, ‘through a glass darkly’ from the older Scriptures, — from the Law, and the Prophets, and the Sapiential Books, as an evidence of the truth fully revealed to us, reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scriptures , which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety. We believe, then, even as the Lord set forth the Faith to His Disciples, when He said, ‘Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ This is the word of the mystery whereby through the new birth from above our nature is transformed from the corruptible to the incorruptible, being renewed from ‘the old man,’ ‘according to the image of Him who created’ at the beginning the likeness to the Godhead. In the Faith then which was delivered by God to the Apostles we admit neither subtraction, nor alteration, nor addition, knowing assuredly that he who presumes to pervert the Divine utterance by dishonest quibbling, the same ‘is of his father the devil,’ who leaves the words of truth and ‘speaks of his own,’ becoming the father of a lie. For whatsoever is said otherwise than in exact accord with the truth is assuredly false and not true (NPNF2, Vol. 5, Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, Book 2.1), Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg 192-193

    Caesarius of Arles: You ask whether He [i.e. the Holy Spirit] was begotten or not. Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know through idle curiosity (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 66, Sermons 187–238, Sermon 213.2 p. 107).

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    1. Thanks, sister! Yes, with his reforms, pope Francis is ipso facto refuting conservative Catholic apologists’ claims to the divine authority of “Sacred Tradition.” Broussard and the others at Catholic Answers are very much aware of the problems that Francis presents, but can’t afford to openly and honestly acknowledge them.

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      1. Sounds good! I can’t even check my step count for yesterday because my wife took our cell phones out of the bedroom last night after reading an article about the dangers of cell phone radiation. She get’s carried away at times. I need to listen to one of your marriage sermons again! 😊 Ah, enjoying a hot cup of java right now!

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    1. Thanks, Jesse. Nice job! It’s much more thorough analysis than my own. I appreciate your bringing this to our attention as an additional rebuttal.

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    1. Thanks brother! Yeah, he’s hoping to mislead the reader into equating Paul’s “teaching” with the RCC’s spurious “sacred tradition.” The claims for “sacred tradition” being Jesus’ and the apostles’ unwritten teaching that was passed down orally is so bogus.

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      1. Yes, I appreciate these rad-trads for asking the hard questions which Broussard would rather not deal with and which Francis could not care less about.

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