Monday, January 11, 2010

Sola Ecclesiam

What Is Sola Ecclesiam?

In a recent video blog, White brings this subject up as if it is something new, when in fact I believe I coined the term with him about 20 years ago!  He didn't run with it much back then, but now he's putting a different spin on it.  20 years ago I embraced the term!  Now he apparently thinks this is something Catholics should shun.   When I used sola ecclesiam on White I pointed out that the Church is all encompassing of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium - and that sola ecclesiam IS the true nature of Christendom.  Jesus didn't build a book, in fact He didn't write a single thing - except something unknown in the sand when the accusers of the harlot were about to stone her.  No, Jesus built the Church!  Jesus established bishops to be in charge of governing His Church and gave them infallible authority to bind or loose whatsoever they chose whenever THEY determined the necessity of dogmatically defining a teaching.   Jesus NEVER said they would find everything they would ever need within the confines of a book - much less a book that would not be fully compiled in the form we recognize today for nearly 400 years after His Resurrection!

I found it a bit ironic that White took my argument from 20 years ago and attempts to table turn it stating Catholics have come up with sola ecclesiam to counter sola scriptura!  I laughed out loud when I heard that!  It was my argument that Protestantism, which needed a new and different authority (a different gospel) from that which preceded them, invented sola scriptura to be the authority over all including the Church which Christ built and defined what is and isn't Scripture FOR the People of God.  Now I'm not absolutely sure I coined the phrase "sola ecclesiam" (or sola ecclesia) but I am still unaware of anyone else using the terminology prior to my use of it with White 20 years ago.

Scripture is indeed the Word of God and therefore is authoritative - but faulty interpretations of Scripture lead to heresy both in the past and ongoing to this day.  White is quick to point to previous apologists example of the Arian Heresy wherein it is argued that both sides make their case, logically, from Scripture.  White points us to another article on his blog written by one who goes by the pseudonym of "Tur8infan" (and why apologists hide behind pseudonyms is beyond me, what are they ashamed of? - but that's another topic) wherein he (assuming "he") asserts that Arianism was "refuted" many times by the Early Church Fathers (ECFs).  I respond - yes, in their view Arianism was indeed refuted - BUT - did said refutations end the heresy?  NO!  The "end" to the heresy lies in Church declarations, not Scripture!  Arianism did eventually die out and was not seen again until relatively recently in cults like Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.  The point is, Scripture alone did NOT put an end to the heresy!  Certainly those who agreed and/or agree with Sts. Athanasius or Alexander or Augustine, etc. (as do I) will agree with the assertions that Arianism is refuted.  The point is, however, that Arianism counters with its own claims and scriptural backing!  Modern Arians in the Jehovah's Witnesses do the same thing to this day!  If Scripture ALONE is the sole authority, then why is any given person or group's interpretation any more or less valid than another's?  Therein lies the fatal flaw of sola scriptura!  Scripture alone only refutes Arianism among those who agree with each other.  Most Christians are not Arians - yet what makes this majority right - simply because they are in the majority?  Why is their interpretation more accepted than the Arian interpretation?  Logic, validity and truth are not based in majority rule!  At times, especially in the case of St. Athanasius (whom "Tur8infan" brings up) when his view became the minority view amongst Christians!  Thank God for his steadfastness and that the Church eventually came around to not only refute (again, I do not deny the refutation) but also declared (which is more important) the heresy of Arianism.  Arianism is not necessarily inconsistent with Scripture, it is inconsistent with the interpretation of Scripture of the majority of Christians - it is quite consistent with its own interpretation of Scripture.

So sola ecclesiam (or sola ecclesia) is not something we, Catholics, should fear - it is the TRUTH!  Scripture is PART OF the ecclesiam just as much as Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium are.  The Church does not stand opposed to Scripture - as the sola scripturists would represent the argument to be - no!  It is the Church which defined what IS Scripture and defends God's Word throughout the ages!  Scripture, afterall and after the fact, records the early actions of the Church which preceded the inscripturation.  Except in the case of prophecy, the People of God (the Church) has always pre-existed the inscripturation regarding the People of God (the Church).  Therefore the Church embraces Scripture as a necessary PART of herself. 

The Church did not pop up some 1500 years after the fact with artificial humility and declare itself subservient to the Scriptures which she herself defined some 1100 years earlier.  No, this concept of sola scriptura came up out of necessity of the protesters of the 16th century who needed a different authority to adhere to than that which was previously adhered to.  This "different gospel" was invented to give them a different foundation upon which to build their new "church."  Why is it that such a foundation concept, as Protestants would have you believe, is never EVER heard of throughout ALL the Early Church Fathers?  The terminology is Latin, and yet NOT ONE of the Latin Fathers (Western) EVER used the term "sola scriptura," NOT ONE!  This fact alone should throw out red flags to the objective reader.  Let the objective reader make an objective study of this and prove me right, or prove me wrong. 



  1. Nice comment and a helpful perspective on the history of the term as used by James White. Naturally enough, most Catholics will instinctively know that the Church pre-dates the bible, even if most do not know this formally. It is a pity that so few protestants realise that the church pre-dates the bible and that so many protestants are willing to argue that the bible is the foundation of the church - ignoring the teaching of the bible that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

  2. Well, no word from White or anyone at AOMin yet. In fairness, White is out of town and may not have had time to look into this yet - or maybe I'm getting the "silent treatment" again? Time will tell. I am working on setting up for video blogging myself - perhaps this would make a good introductory topic for video blogging? Hmmmm...


  3. Carrie, on BeggarsAll, posted this link:

    Does this not count?

    So, I humbly stand corrected on the coining of the phrase (I do accept valid criticism) but this does not change the fact of the matter that White and I engaged the topic over 20 years ago, and it was something I embraced then as I do now.

    I have appropriately thanked Carrie on their blog.

    In JMJ,


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