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October 23, 2006


J.R. Stoodley

What about the idea that Scripture is "materially sufficient"? Is it really an orthodox idea that Scripture contains all that is neccessary for our salvation, if interpreted in the light of Tradition and Church teachings? A couple very well informed and faithful Catholics have been telling me this but it doesn't seem right.

John Henry

JRS, Newman, in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, makes a reference in passing that such a view is permitted.


Scripture is materially sufficient, but Scipture + Tradition + the teaching of the Magisterium are formally sufficient.

It's like having a pile of bricks or lumber, as opposed to having a house. Scripture is the material, Tradition and it's infallible teaching are what place everything in an order, and holds everything together.

Scott W

I suppose there is a distinction between materially sufficient for salvation vs. materially sufficient for doctrine. That is, drop bibles on people with no pre-concieved notions of Christianity, and after reading it, it is reasonable to think that they would come away with enough to know that Christ is Our Lord and savior and that they Him.

However, it is safe say that none of them would come up with the doctrine of the Trinity just by reading the Bible. All the material may be there for the Trinity, but it takes formal sufficiency to learn the Trinity. Mark Shea gives a good example when he was listening to an argument on a call-in radio program between a non-Catholic Christian and a non-trinitarian. The non-trinitarian matched him verse for verse in a proof-text battle until the Christian blurted out, "God is a trinity because 2000 years of Christian teaching says he is!" Welcome to Sacred Tradition. :)


How about Sunday worship versus the Sabbath? Except for the Seventh Day Adventists, Sunday worship is universally accepted although it is not commanded explicitly by scripture.

Christmas as a day worthy of being celebrated might be similar, but it has been accepted much more recently (since the Civil War) and not so universally.

John E

Regarding the canon of the NT, I would wager that the Protestant response would be something along the lines that even a broken clock is right twice a day. But wow, what a thing to be right about. But actually it's being right about many things since a determination must be made about each book.


"That is, drop bibles on people with no pre-concieved notions of Christianity, and after reading it, it is reasonable to think that they would come away with enough to know that Christ is Our Lord and savior and that they Him."

This demonstrates a good point -- one that, to my mind, brings out one of the highlights in the passages of ACTS concerning the Ethiopian:

Acts:8:30: And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
Acts:8:31: And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

Paul R. Hoffer

Isn't the Church's doctrine of Tradition explicitly demonstrated froms Acts 20:35 where St. Paul quotes a saying of Jesus that is found nowhere in any of the four Gospels? Obviously, this teaching was transmitted by the Apostles to St. Paul We Catholic argue the same thing about the authority of the Church from Acts 15 which depicted the first Council, the Council of Jerusalem. Just wondering...

Dr. Eric

I think the idea that Our Lord was a carpenter would be a tradition (small t at least) that is universally accepted but not in Sacred Scripture. In my readings of the Gospels I found no such reference, just that He was referred to as the Carpenter's Son. Children are allowed to have different jobs than their parents.


I don't know if it is of any value to the discussion, but the Protestant understanding of the canon of the New Testament is not found either in the doctrine of sacred tradition, nor in some notion of a divinely-inspired table of contents. IF you want to reach Protestants effectively, become familiar with the arguments found in Bruce, Metzger, Ridderbos and others. I will be happy to supply titles and ISBNs to anyone who wishes to pursue this and engage with the actual arguments rather than straw men.

Albertus M

Prayer to the Holy Spirit. Where's that in the Bible? Yet before to long, you get "Veni Sancte Spiritus."

Paul R. Hoffer

I guess my point is this...if Protestants believe that what is contained in Scripture is sufficient to teach doctrine, then they should be obliged to recognize the validity of Sacred Tradition as Acts 20:35 plainly demonstrates that there is one separate and apart from the Gospels themselves.

Scott W

...become familiar with the arguments found in Bruce, Metzger, Ridderbos and others.

A homework assignment? Let me suggest making an argument. Telling others to go get educated is bad form.


Many evangelicals will reject the implausibility of the spontaneous generation of the universe (as per the atheistic idea of evolution) as beyond possibility -- unless you accept the idea of a Creator God.

Yet I have asked the same Evangelicals the question of the existence of Sacred Scripture being a testament to the teaching of authority of the Church and what do they say?

If not by the Church, the Bible would have "happened" anyway.

I cannot believe that such a self-serving and insincere answer settles this question for them. Frustration! Even if you point out the fact that God chose to use the Church to give us Scripture, they still remain intellectually immobile.

Making arguments is always a snap, getting people to honestly mull them over is impossible. I have many extremely intelligent Protestant friends and respect their belief but I cannot get over the weak logic.


The thought that came to mind related to the question of Ministry. There are no complete directions about who may or may not be an ordained minister in the Christian church, and different groups have differing disciplines. But all agree that not just ANYONE can fill this role. That's a tradition, universally held?

pat bradshaw

Reading jimmy's take on this it made me think of mark shea's book
"An Evangelical discovers Sacred Tradition". He mentions polygamy as something that is not prohibited in scripture, but is considered morally wrong by Protestants in addition to the Church. Any replies?

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