16 July 2014

The Bible is Catholic, the Church is Catholic

St. Corbinian's Bear has another fine post today. This time, he writes some trenchant observations on the the interpretation of the Bible and the problems inherent in the Protestant position.

In short, did Christ come to write a book or to establish a Church? Excerpts:


How Protestants Think

Protestantism makes sense -- not perfect sense, but good enough for most people -- if you start out with one assumption:

God gave us a Bible, not a Church.

Once you get your mind around that, you can understand Protestants. And you can understand why trying to talk to one is so frustrating.

... The Bible is the oracle of all divine teaching, not a church. Don't like what your pastor says? Move on down the road to the next "church."

Don't like what your denomination teaches? Quit it entirely and join one that is more agreeable in its teachings....

The Bible is infinitely mutable.

You're saved by baptism.
No, you're saved by believing in your heart and confessing with your lips that Jesus is Lord. (That's when you say "The Sinner's Prayer" and become "saved.")
Once you're saved, you can't lose your salvation no matter what.
No, that's wrong; you can lose your salvation.
God's sovereign will has already predestined every person who is going to Heaven, and every person who is going to Hell, and there's not a damned thing -- literally -- you can do about it.
No, we can choose to cooperate with grace or not.
Homosexuality is an abomination.
No, homosexuality is merely approved or disapproved by one's culture without having anything to do with sin. It is a preference. (Like enjoying oysters, young Antoninus.)
St. Paul wrote that he does not permit a woman to teach in the congregation.
St. Paul just meant it would seem weird in those days -- now we have priestesses, and lesbian ones at that!

So much for perspicacity of scripture. Without guidance, every man is his own Pope, infallibly interpreting Holy Writ.

But set all that aside for a moment. The Bible-believing Protestant is like a man who spends his life in a room papered with pages of the Bible. He believes he knows all he needs to know, and turns away people who try to get him out of the room and show him the big wide world outside. "I don't need any guide!" he hisses, then gestures wildly about his room.

The Catholic may safely study the Bible, because he has a guide in the Church. As Scott Hahn -- an ex-Presbyterian minister turned Catholic -- points out in Consuming the Word (one of the too-many books the Bear is reading at the moment):

Jesus never wrote a word we know of, unless it was in the dirt on one occasion
Over half his apostles never left a scrap of writing behind, as far as we know
the Church was up and running before the canon of Scripture was established (by the Church, so that was handy)
Jesus came to establish a Church, not write a book

It makes the Bear's heart glow with love for scripture to think that he can study it all he wants, and will never be led astray by his own ideas or interpretations. The Church has gone before, with her saints and doctors and councils and popes. The traditional fourfold sense of scripture is seldom invoked by Protestants, but is the joy of Catholics.


We are fortunate to have both sources of revelation: the Church and our Bible.


Methodist Jim said...

Please don't go to a Catholic blogger as your source on what Protestants believe. As I wouldn't suggest that you come to me to ask what Catholics believe. And, please, recognize that there is no "the Protestant position." Pretending that there is, of course, creates a straw man of inconsistencies, but that straw man doesn't really exist.

Rachel said...

It seems to me that "there is no Protestant position" was pretty much Tinman's point. Sincere Protestants hold mutually contradictory beliefs on important doctrines, showing that the Bible alone is not enough for us to know true doctrine for sure.

As for me, I grew up a very happy and contented Protestant till age 28. In my denomination we believed in Sola Scriptura-- that there is no religious authority but the Bible. Realizing that Sola Scriptura contradicts itself played a part in my becoming Catholic. :)