An Ex-CofC Convert to Catholicism “vs.” an Ex-Catholic Convert to CofC-ism. Judge for Yourself.

While conducting research for my last book about the CofC’s theory of “Apostasy and Restoration” and searching for its best arguments, popular CofC self-help preacher/instructor Neal Pollard led me to a man named Mark O’B.  (He later asked me not to post his full name; he said I was “defaming” him.)  Mark was presented to me as a sort of expert in regards to the differences between the Catholic Church and the CofC.  Mark grew up Catholic, is, purportedly, very informed about both Faiths, discerned the priesthood, “knows Catholicism deeply”, and as an adult, chose to leave the Catholic Church and become a trophy member of the CofC.  He’s, apparently, one of their smart guys. 
Our dialogue was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had with any member of the CofC.  He refused to answer any questions, he refused to offer any argument for the CofC’s theory of “Apostasy” and “Restoration”, and he refused to direct me to any material that might reveal the CofC’s best arguments.  (All normal behavior, I’ve found. My frustration is with the CofC’s mary-go-round game that is meant to only give the impression of intelligent and willing dialogue.) The only way he would discuss the topic was personally–not by email, to do what the CofC often does, to get inside a person’s personal space.  As a convert, I know the tactic; it is a way of softening a person. Cults use the tactic as well; information is rationed, is secret, and is dispensed according to a target’s perceived willingness to accept it. I refused to meet and I pursued other avenues of research. Mark’s last words to me were a sarcastic offer to answer any other questions. (More mary-go-round behavior.) I had no reason to believe he was serious, but I remembered his offer.
Fast forward to today. I’m currently conducting research for a book that will include a chapter about the CofC’s adoption of sola Scriptura (now available here; 07/23/15), and I, as before, only want to know the CofC’s best/most indicative arguments. I emailed Mark a single, simple question:  When did sola Scriptura begin?  
The following is our latest email discussion. You’ll notice the underlying tension, but the reason I’m posting this is so readers can notice some very telling differences between a man who has left the CofC for the Catholic Church, and a man who has left the Catholic Church for the CofC:
1) One person has a fair understanding of reality, the other does not.
2) One person has a fair understanding of logic, the other does not.
3) One person honors his own Rule of Faith, the other does not.
4) One person understands the theological vocabulary he uses, the other does not.
5) One person tries to focus on the topic at hand, the other person talks around the topic and tries to change subjects.
6) One person obviously knows about the Faith he rejects, the other person obviously knows very little about the Faith he rejects.
My (Patrick’s) words are Red.  Mark’s words are blue.  Note:
CofC = Protestant/Stone-Campbell-styled Church of Christ
sS = sola Scriptura
SS = Sacred Scripture
ST = Sacred Tradition.
I’ve attempted to correct blatant spelling/punctuation and mistakes for both of us in order to create an easier read.
You wrote you’re happy to answer any further questions, so I’ve got one for you.  Of course, you never answered any of my earlier questions, but perhaps you’re serious about your offer.
I asked Neal Pollard [the CofC minister who referred to you as, essentially, the “go to” CofC/Catholicism Comparative Religion expert] the following question, but he was unable/unwilling to answer it. In fact, I’ve asked about a dozen popular CofC guys, and none of them have given it any attention. Now, I understand why my question must be avoided, but you, a person who fancies himself as informed about theology and history, and as a man who certainly thought critically about leaving the Catholic paradigm for the Protestant paradigm, must have asked this question: When did sola Scriptura begin?
I look forward to your answer, and I hope you’re able/willing to discuss the obvious problems your answer might create for the CofC’s Rule of Faith. I’m not setting you up. I want to know more CofC secret knowledge!
Pat Vandapool
Hi Patrick!
It is wonderful to hear from you again!  I pray your winter has been going well.  And WOW has it been a cold one. 
Thank you for the kind words.  I really do try diligently to examine all the facts before accepting an idea as truth.
Yes, I welcome questions, especially questions on authority like “Sola Scriptura”.  I look forward to discussing any problems with Sola Scriptura, too.  
I will attempt to begin the discussion tonight.
Sola Scriptura isn’t found in the Book, as you know, so it is a man-made term and therefore we should examine it with care.  The term comes from the Reformation movement (1500’s).  The churches of Christ do not attempt to reform Catholicism in any way.  We are part of the Restoration movement alone.  Of course, the church of Christ is also not Protestantism.  We don’t “protest” against the Catholic church.  Please bear with me a moment and allow me to state that it is logically impossible to reform that which was imperfect when it was created. The only goal worthwhile is restoration.  This means planting a church according to the NT pattern wherever it’s needed.  The pure simple Words of God must be allowed to speak first and last.  There’s so much hope and encouragement in the pure simple Gospel.  It must not be weighed down with men’s teachings and traditions.  These things obscure the beauty of the pure Word. 
The concept behind Sola Scriptura though, is found all through the Bible, both Testaments.  So the answer to the question of, “when did bible alone teaching begin” must be first be put to the bible test.  The bible must be allowed to speak on every spiritual matter since it claims to be from God.  I know you’ve heard all the bible verses that Protestantism uses to defend Sola Scriptura, like 1 Corinthians 4:6 etc.  We know from bible history that bible alone teaching began the moment God’s Word is given.  Bible alone teaching ends when men depart from the Word for parts unknown, usually because they love money, themselves, or power or a terrible combination of those, more than they love Christ.
In the end of the matter, we find that humanity has been under three covenants; Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian.  All three are unilateral Laws from God.  That is, God speaks, and we either accept or reject that Word.  There’s no “bargaining” with the Lord on the covenant Law.  It’s a one-way road with God: the narrow way or the broad way.
When we depart from the Bible alone, men are left to ANY idea they can possibly come up with.  After that, it’s just about who can bully the other better (authoritarianism) and who can kill and murder better.  If the foundation is faulty the entire structure will be faulty and will not last. Humanism in all forms is a faulty foundation, not just because it denies God his value, but because in pushing God out of the picture man is left without value. All that is left is apathy, despair, pessimism, and hopelessness. History shows us that the godless vacuum is always filled with slavery. Everybody’s heard Spaniard George Santayan’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. But what is it that we have to remember in order to avoid enslavement by the next conquering people?
If the Lord’s church ever had a motto or rule of faith, it always sounds something like this.
We are happy to bring you the pure, simple, powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ. We endeavor to “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent; calling Bible things by Bible names; and doing Bible things in Bible ways.” The power of God unto salvation is the word of God and we enjoy the privilege of preaching it without addition or subtraction.
By the way, I created a website ( and posted several of my papers.  The, “Church History for Busy People” is an important read.  Looking forward to hearing back soon!
In Jesus,
I’m delighted you’re willing to take a stab at this question!  After our last discussion I was pretty sure you wouldn’t be willing; you’ve gained some “apologetics cred'” for your willingness to respond.  Thank you!
I’m not trying to badger you.  I’m responding to your reply because you might have written a lot of words, but, apparently, you did not answer my question; and I hope you’ll take another stab at it.  Perhaps I should have been more specific, so I’ll add some background for you.
But first, I want to remind you of my intent.  As before, I ask this question because I’m interested in the Protestant Church of Christ’s (CofC hereafter) best arguments/answers.  Anyone can build a straw man; I want to know the “real” thinking behind the CofC’s beliefs. 
Also, I know the CofC is not a 16th century group (Protestant proper), but it is Protestant (as an adjective).  I understand you’re a “Restorationist”.  (The original Protestants thought of themselves as Restorationists as well.)  There are other reasons why I, and the world, refer to the CofC as Protestant.  Firstly, the Catholic Church has used the names “Church of Christ” and “churches of Christ” for two thousand years, and so it makes little sense to refer to the 19th century Stone-Campbell traditions by those names – doing so would add confusion, not clarity. So, the “Protestant” modifier is reasonable.  Second, the CofC was born out of, and into, the larger Protestant tradition, which is why the Protestant Rule of Faith is your model.  Basically, CofC DNA is Protestant, and as a child of its Protestant parents, it cannot change its spots by wishful thinking. 
But I’m not sure you understand what sola Scriptura (“sS” hereafter) is.  sS is not “we believe the Bible”, “the Scriptures are the word of God”, or anything like that.  It means “The Scripture alone is the all-sufficient and only word of God, that Scripture alone contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.”
So when you write that sS was true/existing even in the OT, I know you don’t know what it means.  Because if it were true back then, then the teachings of the prophets, and the gradual development of the OT canon, would be against the established Rule (sS). 
Fast forward to the Church.  The early Church did not believe in sS, which I thought you would know by basic logic. (Forgive me. It was communicated to me that you have thought through your conversion.)  The early Church believed in the Catholic Rule of Faith (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as the single word of God).  But since sS is the Protestant/CofC Rule of Faith, one should expect the Bible to teach it in some way.  Of course, the Bible does not teach it.  I asked you to answer my question in obedience to your own Rule (or, at least, to the CofC’s Rule), but you did not.  Instead, you talked around the answer without showing from Scripture where the Rule exists.  You did offer 1 Cor 4:6 but you neither quoted it nor showed how it in any way supports sS.  If you’re curious, I’ve written a simple analysis of that verse here.  That verse actually supports the Catholic Rule of Faith (and that the Christian OT is the Catholic, not Protestant, OT).  In fact, every favored “proof” that the CofC offers (especially 2 Tim 3:16,17; Acts 17:11; etc. — of which I am happy to show you) supports the Catholic, not Protestant, Rule of Faith, which is why Pollard recently re-wrote 2 Tim 3 on his flog to read, “Scripture … makes one spiritually complete” instead of what it communicates: the OT is profitable and useful for the work of the priest (the “man of God”).   
There are plenty of NT proofs that the early Church did not recognize your Rule.  For example, consider the eunuch of Acts 8.  It was not the “Bible alone” (it was just part of the OT) that the eunuch required for conversion; he required the authoritative teaching/interpretation of the established Church (Philip).  It would be hard to believe he would have become a Christian if sS were his only source for the word of God. In fact, the eunuch’s initial confusion by reading only Scripture is perfectly indicative of any “Bible only” paradigm!
If sS were true in the early Church, then the Scriptures don’t provide any support for it, but rather, teach that the written and spoken teachings (traditions/paradosis) of the Church are to be minded by all Christians (I can flesh this out if you would like).
So, at some point, the CofC, when the rubber meets the road, believes the Christian Church developed the theory of sS.  Because if the nascent Church originally believed in sS, then the development of “new” Scripture would be contrary to sS (which is what all of the NT is).  If the nascent Church believed in sS, then the Apostles’ teachings were in violation of your (the CofC’s) purported “all-sufficiency” of the OT. (Was St. Paul himself not violating sS by writing 1 Cor 4:6, and violating sS as he wrote other letters?)  If sS were true, then St. Paul would not have groomed his successor (St. Timothy).  If sS were true, then the college of apostles would not have ordained Judas’ successor.  If sS were true, then the very existence of the NT is a paradox; if the Rule states that the Bible is all-sufficient, and if the Bible does not teach it, then its proponents are in a sorry position.  In other words, sS is not scriptural.  So, I must ask you to focus on the question, and try to determine when the Church broke the “pattern” and became a “Bible-only” Church; because, as you must admit, there was no such thing as a “Bible-only” Christian in the first century. 
At some point, the CofC must admit that the Church, originally, did not, and could not, mind the Rule of sS; but in fact, minded the Catholic model, which is an acceptance of both Scripture and the teaching authority (Tradition) of the Church.  After all, it was a Sacred Tradition that in fact wrote the NT, was it not?  Did the NT write itself?  Do you believe the NT can, in any way, reveal its own Sacred Table of Contents?  Mark, it is impossible, absolutely impossible, to discern the NT canon by using only NT autographs.  It was, and could only have been, a discernment of an exterior authority – a Sacred Tradition.  Not one single book from the NT claims inspiration for itself, Mark.  The only means for you to know (or believe, rather) the NT is inspired is because of the authority of a Sacred (Catholic) Tradition.  Put differently, the existence of the NT presupposes the existence of a Sacred Tradition, which of course, invalidates the Protestant Rule (and is, as it seems, precisely what the Scriptures reveal).
So, at some point, the CofC would need to admit that a transformation occurred – that the Church transformed from a Catholic model to a Protestant model – that “the word of God” transformed from a “Sacred Tradition + Sacred Scripture” model to a “Sacred Scripture-only” model.  And that is my question: When did sola Scriptura begin?
I understand if you no longer want to discuss this, but I hope you do.
I suppose it depends on how the word protestant is defined.  The church of Christ is a mirror image of the New Testament church.  That is, we do everything the way the bible explains it.  Protestantism came later, after Catholicism was already around.  (see  Protestantism comes from Germany.  The Lord’s church comes from Jerusalem.  Therefore, we are not in any way Protestant.  We just don’t meet the definition at all.
When I said sS was also in the OT, I mean that the concept was there.  The protestant usage didn’t come along till Luther.  
I don’t see any indication that the early church believed in the Catholic rule of faith and Sacred Tradition.  Where are you getting that?  I don’t see any indication that ST wrote the NT either.  The bible says it was written by the Holy Spirit, being the Spirit’s Sword.  The NT is self explanatory and self existing.  There was nothing except the OT before it. The HS didn’t write ST first and then the NT.  ST came hundreds of years later.  And it’s still being written by Italy.  The bible says the Canon was closed by AD 100.
I don’t see any Catholicism in the OT or NT.  I also don’t see any Protestantism.  
There’s no “transformation” that I can perceive in the Lord’s church.  It is simply exactly what the bible teaches minus any creeds, rulebooks, or traditions.
In Christ,
I’ll respond in order. 
•You wrote, “The CofC is the mirror image of the NT Church.”  Well, I cannot see that reflection in any way (the NT Church was thoroughly Catholic, not CofC, nor was the NT Church founded on “patterns”. I gave you several examples of how the CofC differs from the NT Church.).  But your words are revealing.  Where you believe you are simply a “reflection” of the Church, the Catholic Church is the physical (real, not reflected) Church of the NT (I also gave you several examples of how the NT Church and the Catholic Church are the same).  We are not a copy, an impostor, or a blueprint — we are the Church.  Your model (Restorationism), is founded on the principle (theory) of patternism/imitation; an ecclesial community cannot be what it is simply trying to imitate.
•I wrote that the CofC is Protestant (adjective), not Protestant (proper).  I’m pretty sure I made sense.  I’m not being rude; I’m being clear. Surely, you can understand that you are Protestant (non-Catholic, protesting the established Catholic Church, etc.).  Also, it is up to you to show how the CofC “comes from Jerusalem.” The CofC did not exist until the 19th century (a product of the Protestant tradition. I know you know this; please don’t expect me to play that game).  I know you don’t want to believe that, but that is simply the fact of history.  I think you’re conflating your hope that the CofC existed in the first century and your wishful thinking with reality, but there is no indication (theological, scriptural, archaeological, logical, etc.) to believe it.
•I don’t see the concept of sS in the OT at all, and you did not show it to me.  Nor did you acknowledge how the gradual development of the canon invalidates any sS Rule.  Will you respond?  Of course, any extra-scriptural revelation to the OT audience would constitute a violation of sS as well.
•I agree, the Protestant usage came along later.  That later usage is the definition the CofC (though you say you are not Protestant) adopted.  So, what I’m asking of you is to acknowledge that the later usage is in fact your Rule of Faith, to utilize your Rule of Faith, and show me where that Rule of Faith is found within your purported source for your Rule of Faith (the Bible only).  It is a simple and reasonable request–a request all of your converts, if responsible, would demand.
•You wrote “I don’t see any indication that the early church believed in the Catholic rule of faith…”  I just gave you some very reasonable proofs; please read what I wrote for you.  If you want more “scriptural proofs” please visit my site, or re-read the CofC’s own proof-texts for sS in context (my site will help you do that).  Did Jesus build a Church with authority or did He build a “Bible”?  Of course, He built a Church!  That Church wrote the NT, added it to the OT, then called that entire collection, by its Christ-given authority the “Bible”.  Your theorizing that the NT is “self-explanatory” and “self-existing” has no place in reality; the NT is real, it was created within a context by a visible Church. Put differently, the Bible is a product of the Catholic Church, as carried by the HS (He did, in fact, promise that the Helper would be with her).  So, the very existence of the NT presupposes the existence of a Sacred Tradition that had at least as much authority.  (I’m happy to give you about 60 passages that reflect this fact if you would like.)
•If you don’t see how ST produced the NT, then how, please, did the NT come to be?  Did it fall from the sky or did MEN write it?  Did it fall from the sky or did MEN sift through the  early texts used within the liturgy or that claimed apostolic origins to determine which ones were inspired?  Did it fall from the sky with an organized Table of Contents that you now accept, or was that Table of Contents determined by MEN?  Those MEN, Mark, were Catholic, were the visible, physical agents that comprise the Sacred Tradition of the Christian Church.  (If I’m wrong, then the CofC should give an explanation as to where the Bible came from.)  Therefore, the ST is intrinsic to the NT, and of course, both forms of God’s word, ST and SS (not “sS”), are what the NT reveals as the Christian Rule of Faith.
•As I just proved, ST did not come “hundreds of years later.”  (Now I think you might just be joking around with me!)  It was the Body that produced the Bible.  This is a fact, and the CofC would do well to admit that the Bible just did not drop out of the sky, but admit that it was produced by a Tradition created by Christ — His Church, given the Helper, carried by the Spirit, guided into all truth, which will last forever and ever.
•I don’t see Protestantism in the NT either.  And I certainly don’t see any CofCism.  But of course, one of us is right, and the other is wrong.  However, your model has no means of determining which one of us is right — your model (Rule) is subjective to any mini-pope who “sees” different “things” in the Bible.  
•Well, I guess we’re finished.  If you don’t see how your Rule was a development/tradition (or else you simply refuse to admit it because you are enamored by illogic or too comfortable in your model), then I guess you’re unable/unwilling to answer my simple question.  Of course, if your Rule were true — if sola Scriputra were true — then you could simply show me from the Scriptures where it is explained.  Of course, you won’t and can’t.  This very real truth should haunt you because you’re basing your entire religion on a “Bible-only-ism” Rule that is not in the Bible.  I fear for you, Mark.  You have left the Church for a theory that you cannot coherently explain, and you cannot explain it because you don’t understand it, and you don’t understand it because it is not true.   
When did sola Scriptura begin?  It didn’t.  At least, not in the Lord’s Church.  It was developed by heretics, adopted by your sect, and you bind people to it even when you cannot show, from the Scriptures, how it might be true.
Thank you.  I encourage you to examine the link I gave you earlier.  Much of what I explained to you is fleshed out, and, over the years, that material has helped hundreds of CofC-ers come to understand the beauty and intellectual integrity of the Catholic Church of Christ.  You would do well to at least know what it is you reject — because you, evidently, never knew it.
If you have a change of heart (or become able to answer my question), you know how to contact me.
God bless,
Mark then sent me the following gem of anti-Catholic rhetoric (and blocked my email address). Perhaps he thought it was relevant to the topic, perhaps he thought it would, in some magical way, prove how sola Scriptura has existed  since the OT, who knows? Or, most likely, he had nothing intelligent to write, and chose to reveals his bigotry and league.
What do you think of Lincoln’s statement here? Abraham Lincoln stated, 
As long as God gives me a heart to feel, a brain to think, or a hand to execute my will, I will devote it against that power which has attempted to use the machinery of the courts to destroy the rights and character of an American citizen. But there is a thing which is very certain; it is, that if the American people could learn what I know of the fierce hatred of the generality of the priests of Rome against our institutions, our schools, our most sacred rights, and our so dearly bought liberties, they would drive them away, tomorrow, from among us, or would shoot them as traitors. . . . The history of the last thousand years tells us that wherever the Church of Rome is not a dagger to pierce the bosom of a free nation, she is a stone to her neck, and a ball to her feet, to paralyze her and prevent her advance in the ways of civilization, science, intelligence, happiness, and liberty. . . . I do not pretend to be a prophet. But though not a prophet, I see a very dark cloud on our horizon. And that dark cloud is coming from Rome. It is filled with tears of blood. . . .
Update:  Mark has asked me not to use his full name. He, evidently, thinks I’m “defaming” him even though I have not revealed his full name and have simply posted his actual words.  As an argument for sS, however, he thought it would be smart to email me several more quotes from US Presidents who spoke negatively of the Catholic Church.
Pretty standard stuff, unfortunately. CofC-ism is a sales pitch, a theory, an angst against the [Catholic] machine sociological construct. One cannot expect intelligent theological discussion with zealous CofC-ers. What this discussion proves, again, is how Catholic Christianity is able to have a discussion and how CofC-ism is only able to rely on bumper sticker platitudes and evasion. And as proved, again: the Catholic churches of Christ greet you!
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