“Open Bible Study”
March 17, 2012
What constitutes religious authority today:
The Pope or the NT scriptures alone?
This present study concerns the subject of “Religious Authority.” On March 17, 2012 Mr. Rhett Brotherton came to our church building to affirm, “The Bible, church tradition and Papal decrees all constitute religious authority.” Mr. Brotherton is an apologist for the Catholic Church as well as a Captain in the police department in Oklahoma City. He was recommended and endorsed by the presiding priest (Price Oswalt) of St Wenceslaus Catholic Church of Prague, Oklahoma. Mr. George Battey affirmed, “The New Testament scriptures alone constitute religious authority for today.” Mr. Battey’s position is sometimes called “sola scriptura” – which is the Latin phrase meaning, “scripture alone.”
The study began at 6:00 p.m. at the Good Hope Road Church of Christ building in Seminole, Oklahoma. After prayer, a song, and introductions were made by Mr. Brent Wilson, the floor was turned over to Mr. Brotherton. He spoke for thirty minutes presenting his position that the Bible alone did not and could not constitute religious authority. Mr. Brotherton certainly believed the Bible had some authority. He simply did not believe it was the only authority. During his thirty minute presentation he made an amazing statement which will linger in the minds of all who were present, “I do confess the Catholic Church is not a Bible based church; it can’t be.” (28:47 into first speech). This was a very frank admission and it focused the issue of the study. The major difference between the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ is simply this: The Church of Christ believes the church must have Bible authorization for everything which it does; the Catholic Church does not believe this. (We do not “all believe the same thing” after all – as many people are prone say.)
Mr. Brotherton began his presentation by observing there are over 40,000 different denominations. Mr. Brotherton made his own personal observation when he said, “[These denominations] all have one thing in common – they all believe in scripture alone.” The solution to religious division, proposed by Mr. Brotherton, is for everyone to submit to the authority of one man – the Pope. If everyone would submit to his authority, there would be unity in religion (supposedly). However, during the question and answer session, one from the audience asked if the Catholic Church has truly solved the problem of division by having all their authority invested into one man. Mr. Brotherton made the following admission:
There’s always going to be two components. Just as an individual can read scripture and reject it, sadly, a person can listen to the authority of the church and, sadly, reject it. That’s true of anybody that strives to be or is the church that Christ founded. There will always be those within her that reject her message. (28:08 into Mr. Brotherton’s Q & A)
Unwittingly Mr. Brotherton nullified his first major argument. If, as Mr. Brother admits, people can read scripture and reject the message contained therein, then the scriptures are not the blame for division. The blame for division lies in the heart of men who stubbornly refuse submission to the holy word of Almighty God. Furthermore, Mr. Battey explained that the Catholic Church itself has divided on numerous occasions. The Russian Orthodox Church, for example, prides itself in the fact that it broke off from the Catholic Church 1000 years ago. Furthermore, every protestant denomination broke off from the Catholic Church. Certainly the Catholic Church has no monopoly on unity. They, like everyone else, experience divisions.
Mr. Brotherton, in attempting to defend oral traditions, made the statement that oral traditions can never contradict written scriptures. The Catholic Church believes that both oral traditions and written scriptures came from God and therefore cannot contradict one another because God cannot contradict Himself. However, in making this argument, the Catholic Church is actually answering her own argument about religious division. (a) If God cannot contradict Himself, and (b) if the scriptures are His word, (c) then His scriptures cannot contradict themselves. If scriptures cannot contradict themselves, this proves the 40,000 differing denominations are not going by scripture alone – for if they were all going by the scriptures alone, they would not be contradicting one another. Hence, the 40,000 denominations, like the Catholic Church, are going by scriptures when it please them and they go by human tradition when the scriptures alone become too “restrictive.”
Mr. Battey presented the case for the New Testament scriptures alone as the source of all religious authority for today. Mr. Battey carefully explained that the Bible is divided into two major sections (the Old Testament and the New Testament). The Old Testament scriptures were called “the law of Moses” (Joshua 8:31-32) and these scriptures were, from their inception, limited in duration. They would be the authority of God’s people until the Messiah came to bring a new law (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Hebrews 7:12). When Jesus came, He brought a New Testament (covenant) which had laws that must be kept (Jeremiah 31:31-34). These new laws would come into force when the Messiah died and resurrected from the dead (Hebrews 9:16-17). It was then, after the resurrection, that the Lord would declare, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). It was then, after the resurrection, that men would be told to listen to Jesus alone and not to Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-9). Moses’ law no longer has authority. Hence, Mr. Battey took away the argument for the Books of Apocrypha which the Catholic Church added to the Old Testament scriptures. Mr. Battey pointed out that, if it could truly be proven the Books of Apocrypha should be included in the Old Testament scriptures, it would not matter, because the Old Testament law has been “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The Old Testament law was like a “tutor to bring us unto Christ, but after faith has come, we are no longer under the tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).
While the Catholic Church might agree the Lord brought a New Testament, it does not agree that all the provisions and instructions of that New Testament were written down in the pages of scripture. Mr. Battey presented seven passages of scripture which clearly demonstrated that all the truths of the New Testament era were indeed written down. The passages presented were as follows:
- 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
- James 1:25
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- 2 Peter 1:12-15
- 2 Peter 1:19-21
- 1 John 2:27
- Jude 3
Mr. Brotherton made one attempt to “neutralize” the force of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 by saying the “perfect” thing under consideration in verse 10 was not the New Testament scriptures, but rather a reference to Jesus Himself. Mr. Brotherton said when Jesus comes again, it would be then that miracles, including prophesying, would end. In response, Mr. Battey pointed out the New Testament scriptures themselves are called the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). When those scriptures are completely written and confirmed to be true with miraculous powers (Mark 16:20), miraculous power, including prophesying, would end (1 Corinthians 13:10). Mr. Battey also pointed out that when Jesus returns, miracles will not end, as Mr. Brotherton was asserting. Rather, miracles will begin again when Jesus returns – the graves will all burst open and all the dead shall arise (John 5:28-29), the earth will be “burned up” (2 Peter 3:9-10), and many other miraculous things will occur on that great day. Clearly, miracles will not end when Jesus comes again. Miracles will actually begin again when the Lord returns.
There were approximately 100 people gathered for the Open Bible Study. Side by side members of the Catholic Church sat with members of the Church of Christ and there was never any bitterness displayed. Everyone conducted himself in honorable fashion – though there was disagreement over the subject matter. The Open Bible Study proved men can disagree without becoming disagreeable. Mr. Rhett Brotherton was a true gentleman and all the members of the Good Hope Road Church of Christ felt he was very knowledgeable of his position and presented his beliefs in a very good way.
A video recording of the two speeches was made by one of the members in the audience, but the battery operating the camera ran out at the end of the second speech. While Mr. Brotherton’s question and answer session was in progress, the battery was being recharged. Consequently the question session in progress was not video recorded. Mr. Battey’s question session was video recorded. However, at the present time, none of the video recordings can be posted on the website because of the size of the video files. The website has file-size limitations and, until the files can be reduced in size, they cannot be posted on the web. Reducing the file-size will require someone with the knowledge and expertise in performing such a feat – a talent which none of the Good Hope Road members have.
May the Good Lord bless the posting of these materials which are available and may more men and women come to a “knowledge of the truth” as a result. (1 Timothy 2:4)