The Romanist View of Authority

I. Romanism’s view of religious authority is usually based on the fallacy of circular reasoning.

They appeal to their church’s authority to prove their church’s authority! This is like rowing with one oar. All you do is go around in circles.

Romanist: The “Church” is the ultimate authority. Protestant: Who says so? 
Romanist: The “Church” says so.
Protestant: By what authority?
Romanist: The “Church” is the ultimate authority.

II. Romanists are guilty of setting up a false dichotomy between Scripture and tradition. This is the fundamental logical error underlying their entire arguments.

The moment it is admitted that there is such a thing as a “scriptural tradition,” the dichotomy falls apart. For example, in I Cor. 15:3-4, the Apostle Paul clearly appeals to the authority of Scripture as the basis for the Gospel. Then this scriptural teaching on the atonement is called a “tradition” to hand down to others in I Cor. 11:2.

III. Romanists use the logical fallacy of appealing to human authority. Some papists argue, “Since there are so many denominations and interpretations of Scripture, we need someone to decide what is true. Thus we need the Pope!”

Of course we can point out that Hitler, Joseph Smith, Rev. Moon and many other people have all made that same exact argument! We have no more reason to let the Pope do our thinking for us than to let all the other cult leaders!

Romanist Objection #1:
Note: Karl Keating is a Roman Catholic apologist and author of  Catholicism And Fundamentalism. “Nowhere does the Bible say, ‘Scripture alone is sufficient” ‘ (Karl Keating, “What’s Your Authority For That?”).

Protestant Response:
First, this is a logical fallacy. The fact that the Bible does not contain the exact words “Scripture alone is sufficient” does not logically imply that the concept which underlies those words cannot be found in the Bible.

For example, where does the word “Trinity” appear in the Bible? Where does it explicitly say “God in three persons?” Yet, the concept which underlies the doctrine of the Trinity can be found in the Bible even though the terminology was developed later on in Church history.
Second, this argument is self-refuting. Where does the Bible explicitly say “immaculate conception,” “papal infallibility,” “the mass,” etc.? If this argument were valid, it would do far more damage to Romanism than to us.

Third, the Reformation doctrine simply states that the prophets, Jesus, the Apostles and the N.T. Church always appealed to whatever written Scriptures existed in their day as the basis for their doctrines (for example, see I Cor. 15:3-4). They never appealed to “tradition,” “the Church,” “the pope,” etc.

Fourth, logically, since they only appealed to Scripture as the basis of their doctrine, then the burden of proof falls on the Romanists to demonstrate why we should appeal to anything else.

Lastly, in I Cor. 4:6 we are told “not to go beyond what is written” in Scripture. This statement of Paul is the sum and substance of “sola scriptura.”

Catholic Bibles:  Jerusalem Bible: “Keep to what is written.”  New American Bible: “do not go beyond what is set down.”


Romanist Objection #2:
“The Bible actually denies that it is the complete rule of faith” (Karl Keating,  Catholicism And Fundamentalism. p.136).

Protestant Response:
First, this negative argument claims, without substantiation, that the authors of Scripture explicitly knew of and then clearly denied the doctrine of “sola scriptura.”
Second, please show us passages in the Bible where the authors deny that Scripture is the complete rule of faith. Protestants have been waiting several centuries for Romanists to “put up or shut up.” Yet, they never found a single text to support their argument.


Romanist Objection #3:
“The Church tells us the Bible is inspired, and we can take the Church’s word for it precisely because the Church is infallible” (Karl Keating,  Catholicism And Fundamentalism, p. 125).

Protestant Response:
This argument is based on circular reasoning: He “proves” the Bible by the Church and then “proves” the Church by the Bible! This is irrational to say the least!


Romanist Objection #4:
“The Church existed BEFORE the Bible. The Church MADE the Bible. Therefore: a) The Church is OVER the Bible. b) The Church has GREATER authority than the Bible” (see Keating,  Catholicism And Fundamentalism, pgs. 121-133 and also “How to Talk To Fundamentalists” tract).

Protestant Response:
There are major problems with this typical Romanist argument.
First, it is a logical fallacy to assume that:
If x precedes y in z, then x has greater authority than y.

In logic, chronology does not determine authority. This is the fallacy of irrelevance. For example, the Buddha came several centuries BEFORE Jesus. Is Buddha therefore OVER Jesus and does he have GREATER authority than Jesus? NO!

Second, historically, Romanism did not exist in the first century. So how could it have anything to do with the canon of Scripture? The truth is that popery did not exist until many centuries AFTER the canon was closed.

Third, Romanists are once again guilty of the fallacy of ambiguilty. They speak of “the Bible” as if no part of it existed BEFORE the church came into existence. (see: Karl Keating, “How To Talk To Fundamentalists,” “it was the Church that formed the Bible”).

But a set of writings called the “Holy Scriptures” existed BEFORE the church was created. That more Scripture was added to this “set” of writings does not logically imply that the Church “made” the Bible.

Fourth, they have the chronology backwards. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:11-17). The church is the community of believers which is created by the Word. It does not matter if Scripture is heard or read. Thus the Word of Godcreates faith and not the other way around.


Romanist Objection #5
“But didn’t the Church decide doctrine in Acts 15 on the basis of its own authority instead of Scripture”? (Dr. Robert Fastiggi, The Classic Debate, VT: 53)

Protestant Response:
In Acts 15:13-22, James appealed to the Scriptures to settle the Gentile issue. Once he quoted the Scriptures which applied to the issue, the discussion was concluded. No further words needed to be said. The Scriptures had solved the issue.


Questions Which Romanists Must Answer

This is an excerpt from The Reformation View of Roman Catholicism by Robert Morey

  1. Just as “no man can serve two masters,: is it not logically impossible to have MORE than one ULTIMATE authority?
  2. When “push comes to shove,” is it not true that the Romanist’s ULTIMATE authority rests in the decrees of its Popes and church councils and not in Scripture or tradition?
  3. Is it not self-contradictory to appeal to the Bible as your authority to prove that you should not appeal to the Bible as your authority.
  4. Is it not self-contradictory to appeal to the Bible as the authority of your doctrines while saying that the Protestants are in error because they appeal to the Bible as the authority for their doctrines?
  5. Is it not self-contradictory to appeal to the bible as your authority to prove that the Pope or the “church” and not the Bible is your authority?
  6. Where in the Bible did the Old Testament prophets appeal to “tradition” or any other authority than Scripture when establishing doctrine?
  7. Can you show us just one verse where Jesus ever appealed to “tradition” as the basis of his authority?
  8. Can you show us just one verse where the apostles ever referred to “tradition” as the basis of their doctrines?