Patrick Madrid, in the book edited by Robert Sungenis entitled Not By Scripture Alone, makes a whopper of a fallacy on pages 9-10 in describing Cyril of Jerusalem. The quote he is dealing with is a very helpful quotation that supports the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura:
In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures (Catechetical Lectures 4.17).
Madrid admits right off the bat that this language is “perhaps more rigorous than modern Catholics are used to” (p. 9). And yet he still claims that this “conveys an accurate sense of Catholic teaching on the necessity and material sufficiency of Scripture.” Remember, material sufficiency is the doctrine that all the major doctrines of the church are contained in Scripture. On this principle (though not in how it works out), Protestants and Catholics agree. Where they do not agree is in the formal sufficiency principle, which states that the Scriptures are clear on the central truths of the Christian faith. Madrid goes on to say this:
If Cyril really held to the notion of sola scriptura, then it must be true that he believed he had found those Catholic doctrines in Scripture (Madrid is referring to the Mass, the efficacy of expiatory prayers for the dead, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, holy orders, baptismal regeneration, and other Catholic doctrines. Whether Cyril actually taught those things is, of course, another question, LK). Consequently, the Protestant would have to posit that Cyril was badly mistaken in his exegesis of Scripture. Of course, this tack leads nowhere for Protestants, for it would of necessity impugn Cyril’s exegetical credibility, not to mention his claim to find sola scriptura in Scripture (p. 9).
Watch the argument. It seems to go like this: A. If Cyril argues for sola scriptura, then Cyril also believes that his Roman Catholic teaching is found in the Bible. B. This constitutes a double-or-nothing problem for Protestants, since if Cyril was right about sola scriptura, then he was right about all these other doctrines as well. But if Cyril was wrong about these other doctrines, then he wasn’t teaching sola scriptura after all. The holes in this argument should be apparent by now. Why would Cyril’s views on baptismal regeneration, say, be relevant to his argument on sola scriptura? If he is right or wrong on one of those issues, why would that affect his rightness or wrongness on the other issue? Even granting that Cyril teaches what Madrid says he teaches, that does not mean that he has to be right on everything if he is right on sola scriptura. Lots of Protestants are right on sola scriptura and wrong on lots of other things. Similarly, Roman Catholics can be wrong on sola scriptura and be right on the Trinity. Furthermore, suggesting that Cyril is wrong on those doctrines (even if that is what he teaches) is hardly the same thing as impugning Cyril’s exegetical integrity. That simply does not follow.
What is noticeably lacking in Madrid’s treatment of Cyril is any actual exegesis of what Cyril said. Notice again what he says: “Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce.” What constitutes the basis for ready belief? It is not the church. It is not even the church’s interpretation of Scripture (Cyril expressly forbids this by saying that a person should not even give ready belief to Cyril, unless Cyril is proven by Scripture). It is Scripture. The sole basis of authority in the church is the Scripture. This is directly opposed to Roman Catholic teaching, which places the church on a par with Scripture.