Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘teaching authority’

I struggle to accept the Protestant argument for their belief in Sola Scriptura,  and I have not yet encountered a Protestant brother in Christ who could prove to me, without a doubt, that indeed Sola Scriptura is the rule of faith that Jesus Christ gave us. This is because, as Catholic, I acknowledge that when Jesus gave his authority to his disciples he was instituting the teaching authority of his Church.

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mattew 28:17-20)

Protestants wrongly accuse the Catholic Church to value tradition over the Scripture, to despise the Bible and even discourage its reading. So lets us first have a look at what the Church actually says about the Divine Revelation and the word of God. 

“Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text). Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, n 11

Most Protestants also reject the authority of the Church of Rome and, as I understand it, their view is based on one single scripture passage from which they concluded that the ‘Bible is complete, authoritative, and true‘. 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

The problem with the protestant interpretation of this passage is that it does not declare that the Scripture alone is sufficient or the exclusive means to receive the Divine Revelation. Rather, it says that it is useful. Logic prompts us to ask ourselves: If truthful oral transmission of Jesus’ teachings were not good, but Scripture alone, why would Jesus command the Apostles to ‘go and teach’ and not ‘go and write’? And what can we make of scriptures that actually contradict what protestants say 2 Timothy 3:16 intends to convey? 

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13). 

” guard what have been entrusted to you” […] (1 Timothy 6:20)

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25) 

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)  

As I discussed this issue with a protestant brother, he referred me to an apologetic website were it stated: “For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible.”

Firstly, we can see from this statement that there is a profound lack of knowledge of the Catholic Church’s teachings. It  indicates  that the understanding of the definition of ‘Infallible Doctrine’ and ‘Dogma’ is lacking here. Furthermore, it is easy to prove that no Doctrine proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church lacks scriptural support.

The Catholic view is that the Word of God is the Truth, and that the only way for believers to know God and His will  is to stay truthfully loyal to what He has revealed through the Scriptures.  Protestants argue that all believers are perfectly and equally equipped to have an accurate understanding of the Truth, because they are aided and guided by the Holy Spirit, regardless of  any external conditions or interference, such as the individual’s level of commitment to attain an accurate understanding of the Scriptures or even the danger of an evil influence, that might play a role on the individual’s outlook on matters of faith and morals. 

The protestant argument collapses, however, when it fails to explain why there are different ramifications of Christians with so many conflicting views and interpretations of the same scriptures, where each and every one of them reflect the interpretation of mortal men, such as Luther, Calvin and others.

If the Word of God is self-explanatory and if we always succeed to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance; surely all Christians should have a perfectly consensual interpretation of what the Scriptures convey, which as said, is not the case. Now, in practical terms, Protestants seem to believe that God  intended for us to perpetually re-invent the wheels (meaning, individually  ‘re-learn’ the truth conveyed in the Scriptures), since we cannot trust what others who came before us received from Jesus’ very Apostles, and handed on to humanity either through writings or oral teachings.

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30-31) 

There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Heb. 5:10-13) 

The examples above seem to confirm two things to us: 1- Oral transmission is not only acceptable, but necessary; 2- we ought to be aware of the risk of misinterpreting the Scripture, otherwise it would be the same as to state that the Constitution of a given country is the sole authority for civil conduct of all citizens, and that civil affairs are subject only to the interpretation of each individual. Each person can have their understanding of any specific law without the authority of an appointed judge/law expert to interpret the law. 

Catholics believe that we not only need such an authority, but that Jesus bestowed a special ‘Teaching Authority’ onto the Apostles to lead all Christian in the honest, truthful way to God. 

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

If Christians have failed to ’listen’ to the Holy Spirit, or at least some of us have, since there is no consensus between Catholics and Protestants ( or even amongst Protestant), can we really believe that Jesus expected each individual to be born on earth to be responsible not only for the task of seeking the truth, but also understating it with unerring accuracy? 

The Catholic Church, through the Fidei Depositum, has been a guardian of both the Divine Revelation contained in the Scriptures and of the oral teachings handed on to her by the Apostles. The Church has fought through the centuries not only for the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide; but has also shed blood to protect it. 

The Authority of the Catholic Church, in the light of the Apostolic Succession, comes not from man-made tradition but from the Bible itself! In Acts 15:1-14 we read how Peter solved a doctrinal issue without referring to the Scripture, but in the authority given to him as leader by Jesus, as well as through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon him at Pentecost. The truth revealed to the Apostles by Jesus and the Holy Spirit has indeed been transmitted through the centuries in the history of the Church with the backing of Jesus’ promise to the Apostles to be with His Church to the end of time. Note here that Jesus is not only promising this to the Apostles, who we know did not live in the world perpetually, rather ‘the end of time’ indicates that He refers even to their successors and followers yet to come. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the Catholic Church is indeed the instituted authority on earth to teach and protect the teachings of Lord. 

“We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition.” 

This is another serious misconception and distortion of facts, since neither does the Catholic Church deny that the Bible is the complete revealed truth nor does she base any of her Doctrines merely on Tradition.

Some protestants, not all, recognize the conditions that early Christians faced in early days of Christianity, when there was no Bible, and therefore the need for them to accept the oral teachings of the Apostles. In fact, Jesus did not commission the Apostles to write, or even to circulate the Scriptures. Instead he commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations (Mark 16:20). Amongst the seventy-two disciples, and early followers of Christ, only eight have left any sacred writings. This proves to us that from the early days Christian believers accepted the living authority of the disciples, not private interpretation of the Scriptures.

When protestants are confronted with historical facts, such as non-existence of printing press, which caused the Bible to be very rare for over a thousand years, or the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history, and so on, they are left no convincing argument, except for acknowledging the role of an early teaching authority, namely, the Church. 

The website I mentioned above fails to explain how the early Christians living under such conditions could still be in accordance with the concept of Scripture alone. Instead it blames the Catholic Church for not ensuring Bibles were widely available: 

Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. […] . Instead of building traditions upon traditions and passing them on from generation to generation, the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2). 

Firstly, I can’t see how 2 Timothy 4:2 can support such claim: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”, for it states exactly what the Catholic Church has been doing for 2 millennia. Secondly, history proves this statement to be thoroughly untrue, in fact the Church has not only always protected the Scriptures from destruction but encouraged Scriptural reading: 

St. John Chrysostom
Doctor of the Church. 

“To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures” 

[On the Letter to the Ephesians – Education of Children.] 

“But what is the answer to these charges? ‘I am not,’ you will say, ‘one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.’ This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.”
[St. John’s Second Homily on Matthew section 10 (which is sometimes labelled as section 5.)] 
Bishop and Doctor of the Church 

“Holy Scripture is invested with supreme authority by reason of its sure and momentous teachings regarding the faith. Whatever, then, it tells us of Enoch, Elias and Moses — that we believe. We do not, for instance, believe that God’s Son was born of the Virgin Mary simply because He could not otherwise have appeared in the flesh and ‘walked amongst men’ — as Faustus would have it — but we believe it simply because it is written in Scripture; and unless we believe in Scripture we can neither be Christians nor be saved.” [S. Aug., Contra Faustum, 26, 3, 6.] 

 Pope St. Gregory I 

“The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.”
[Letters, 5, 46. (EnchBibl 31)] 

So here we are faced with a never-ending disagreement that, to my view, will only end through the divine intervention. For this I see no other way but pray, in the meaning time I keep thank God and praising him to have placed me in the holy Mother Church.

For more evidence on the early Catholic Church and the Bible click here. 

(died 604 AD)Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) (344/354 – 407 AD)

Read Full Post »