Bryan Cross is fond of objecting to sola Scriptura on the grounds that sola Scriptura makes the individual Christian the “ultimate arbiter.”
But the problems with this allegation are numerous:
1.He hasn’t show that this is inconsistent with the Protestant or Reformed understanding of sola Scriptura. So even if his characterization were accurate, so what? How does that disprove what Protestants in general or Calvinists in particular mean by sola scriptura?
2.He hasn’t shown that Catholicism supplies a viable alternative. Therefore, he has failed to solve the problem he posed for himself.
3.”Ultimate arbiter is vague. It could either mean (a) ultimate source or (b) ultimate standard.
i) For example, Greenwich Mean Time is the ultimate standard for time zones. Suppose I have a very accurate watch. The watch is set to GMT.
Still, to tell the time, I have to look at my watch. Does that make me the ultimate arbiter of time? Isn’t that a rather silly way of putting things?
ii) Moreover, how can Bryan avoid this consequence? Perhaps he’d say (to continue with our metaphor) that someone can tell me the time. An infallible speaker can tell me the time.
Unfortunately for Bryan, that simply relocates the problem. Instead of looking at my watch for myself, I listen to what someone tells me. But I’m still using my own senses. I’ve simply shifted from the sense of sight to the sense of hearing. But I’m still the ultimate arbiter (if you will) of what I hear–or think I hear.
Dropping the metaphor, that’s no different whether the text is Scripture, a church father, a papal encyclical, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
4.And from a Reformed standpoint, it’s not even true that I’m the ultimate source. Indeed, it’s very odd to read someone attack Calvinism because Calvinism allegedly makes the individual Christian the ultimate source of what he understands. Normally, critics attack Calvinism because, according to Calvinism, the human agent, whether believer or unbeliever, is not the ultimate source of his thoughts and actions. Rather, his understanding is whatever God willed him to understand–for better or worse.