“The Noble Bereans were Catholic: Is ‘Bible-Only’ Christianity Biblical” is the 2015 print offering from Catholic blogger Patrick Vandapool. Vandapool specializes in dealing with criticisms leveled at Catholicism from the “Stone-Campbell churches of Christ (CofC) and other Restoration-leaning ecclesial communities” with which he was once associated. In this book, Vandapool challenges the idea that “Bible-Only” Christianity is itself biblical.
Vandapool presents several of the most common “Bible-Only” biblical proof texts, and argues that when properly understood, they not only do not support such an idea, they actually support the Catholic Church’s teachings. Vandapool also deals with issues such as whether the historic Christian Church ever believed in the CofC’s (and many other “Bible Church’s”) version of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura, and whether the Bible created its own Table of Contents. He also addresses common anti-Catholic arguments such as that the Catholic Church “goes beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) or that it teaches “traditions of men” (Mk. 7:8) – a topic he addresses at length in another book. Vandapool responds that the Church pre-dates the Bible (ch. 1) and includes a brief discussion of the alleged apostasy that many Bible-Only Christians use to justify their existence (itself a subject of another of Vandapool’s books). He also discusses the role of the Church’s Rule of Faith (ch. 2), and contrasts the early Church’s reliance on Sacred Tradition with the later invention (tradition!) of sola Scriptura.
Vandapool then turns to refuting proof texts used by Bible-Only Christians which makes up nearly half of the book (ch. 4). The titular focus of the book is revealed here by Vandapool’s discussion of Acts 17:11 – a favorite verse of independent “Bible Churches” which endorse “Bible-only” Christianity. He argues that the Bereans were contrasted to the Thessalonians due to the former’s acceptance of the Scripture and Tradition (the Catholic position) rather than the Bible-only spin placed upon the text by the CofC and other “Bible-Only” Christians. Vandapool then provides a very interesting exegesis of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (a favorite sola Scriptura proof text) referencing the 19th Century work of Nicholas Patrick Wiseman to show that the verse actually supports a ministerial use of Scripture rather than the lay use required for the proof text to function as such. Vandapool finishes with a brief discussion of CofC spirituality (ch. 5) and an appendix giving biblical support for Ecclesial/Papal authority.
Not bad for a book barely over 100 pages!
I finish with an important stylistic note offered by Vandapool on the first page of the book’s Introduction: “Even though I am writing primarily for Catholics, I am writing in first person directly to ‘Bible-only’ Christians for good reason” (p. 8). That reason, he says, is to help Catholics learn how to defend their beliefs and respond to Protestant missionaries. he also notes that Protestant readers will be forced to answer the questions he offers throughout the text. Fans of Vandapool’s in-your-face writing style will find no surprises here, but it should be kept in mind that his tone is often aggressive and could be off-putting to more neutral or sensitive readers. So while the book does provide much material helpful to the Catholic who wishes to deal with “Bible-Only” arguments, it is not one that should be handed out to any but the most strident “Bible-Only” Christians.