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3 Big Problems with the

Protestant Doctrine of “Sola

Scriptura” (Scripture Alone)
One of the key principles of Protestantism that distinguishes it from
Catholicism is sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone.”

Though it’s interpreted differently among Protestants, it generally means that

the Bible is either the highest or sole authority for Christians, trumping
ecclesiastical authority and tradition.

The Catholic Church rejects sola scriptura, teaching instead that the Word of
God is passed down in both written Scripture and oral Tradition, and that the
Church’s magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit to definitively and
authoritatively interpret the Word of God for Christians.

Here are three major problems with sola


1) The Bible rejects it

Where do Protestants get the idea that the Bible alone is the highest authority
for Christians? Is this taught anywhere in the Bible?

Actually, no. Pretty much all of the verses to which Protestants usually point
to answer this question indeed speak highly of the authority of Scripture and
its importance for the people of God (e.g. Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, et
al), but none of them say that the Bible alone is the only authority.
No only that, but the Bible upholds the authority of oral tradition alongside
Scripture in contradiction of sola scriptura. In 2 Thessalonians 2.15, St. Paul
writes: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions
that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” St.
Paul is saying that his teachings are authoritative, whether he gave them by
speaking (oral tradition) or writing (Scripture).

2) It can’t explain where we got the Bible

If the Bible is the only authority for Christians, then where did Christians get
the Bible in the first place? Who determined what books should be in the

God did not hand Christians a fully compiled Bible out of the sky. Rather,
God inspired many different writers over the course of many centuries to
write the various books of the Bible. And then God inspired the Catholic
Church, wielding apostolic authority and relying on oral tradition of what
books are inspired, to definitively compile the biblical canon in the 4th

This means that the biblical canon itself depends on the very authority of oral
tradition and ecclesiastical authority that Protestants reject.

3) It doesn’t work
The Bible has to be interpreted. Even when people think it’s clear what the
Bible is saying, they are interpreting it. The problem is different Christians
often interpret the Bible in contradictory, mutually exclusive ways. When
that happens (and it happens constantly), how does the Christian church settle
disagreements and safeguard the Gospel truth God has revealed in Jesus
Because if Christians can’t agree on what the Gospel is, they can’t fulfill their
responsibility to preach it.

Sola scriptura offers no way out of these disagreements, except for Christians
to split and go their separate ways – hence, myriad denominations. But this is
a problem, too, because the Bible teaches that division among Christians is a
sin (cf. 1 Cor 1.10ff, et al)!

The way out of this problem is the way of the very Catholic Church that
Protestants reject, the way dating back to the early Church established by
Jesus: Christ gave the Apostles authority to teach and govern the Church,
authority which they passed on to bishops all the way to the present day in
succession. This apostolic authority doesn’t trump the Word of God (passed
down in written Scripture and oral Tradition), but rather is guided by the
Holy Spirit to safeguard it for every generation.