Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Addendum: Defined Biblical Texts of the Roman Catholic Church

Just a quick follow up to my previous entry:

Very few texts have in fact been authoritatively determined and ‘there consequently remain many important matters in the explanation of which sagacity and ingenuity of Catholic interpreters can and should be freely exercised…” [Source: Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p.60, first column (as cited by David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources inc, 2001), 223].

The number of texts infallibly interpreted by the Church is small…It has been estimated indeed that the total of such texts is under twenty, though there are of course many other indirectly determined”[Source: Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p.59, second column ((as cited by David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources inc, 2001), 224]. King mentions this commentary lists Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 53, and 2 Maccabees 12:43 as infallibly defined, but gives no evidence to prove the assertion.

The Council of Trent teaches that Rom., v, 12, refers to original sin (Sess. V, cc. ii, iv), that John, iii, 5, teaches the absolute necessity of the baptism of water (Sess. V, c. iv; Sess. VII, De bapt., c. ii), that Matt., xxvi, 26 sq. is to be understood in the proper sense (Sess. XIII, cap. i); the Vatican Council gives a direct definition of the texts, Matt., xvi, 16 sqq. and John, xxi, 15 sqq. Many more Scripture texts are indirectly defined by the definition of certain doctrines and the condemnation of certain errors” [Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Entry: Biblical Exegesis].

"...the Church by no means prevents or restrains the pursuit of Biblical science, but rather protects it from error, and largely assists its real progress. A wide field is still left open to the private student, in which his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal effect and to the advantage of the Church. On the one hand, in those passages of Holy Scripture which have not as yet received a certain and definitive interpretation, such labors may, in the benignant providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity the judgment of the Church; on the other, in passages already defined, the private student may do work equally valuable, either by setting them forth more clearly to the flock and more skillfully to scholars, or by defending them more powerfully from hostile attack" [PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, On The Study Of Holy Scripture (Encylical Of Pope Leo XIII, November 18, 1893].

1 comment:

FM483 said...

James, you quoted the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia: ““The Council of Trent teaches that Rom., v, 12, refers to original sin (Sess. V, cc. ii, iv), that John, iii, 5, teaches the absolute necessity of the baptism of water (Sess. V, c. iv; Sess. VII, De bapt., c. ii), that Matt., xxvi, 26 sq. is to be understood in the proper sense (Sess. XIII, cap. i); the Vatican Council gives a direct definition of the texts, Matt., xvi, 16 sqq. and John, xxi, 15 sqq. Many more Scripture texts are indirectly defined by the definition of certain doctrines and the condemnation of certain errors” [Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Entry: Biblical Exegesis].”

The teaching office of the Church of Christ is indeed a real one instituted by Jesus. It is unfortunate that in the years after the 16th century Reformation, unlearned men believed that there was little need of a proper education to grasp the richness and wisdom contained in the Word of God. For example, many fail to understand that Scripture was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and that a knowledge of such ancient tongues and customs greatly facilitates our human understanding. Not all English translations are good and equal for this reason alone.

The Lutheran perspective, and I believe the correct one, is to always take Scripture in it’s simplest form as fact, unless the context indicates otherwise. Hence, as the Council of Trent you referenced above indicates, there is a critical importance in water baptism. Jesus refers to it in John 3:5 and in many other places ,especially Matthew 28:19. There simply is no reason but to take certain Scripture in a literal sense. Not everything is metaphor, pointing to other truths, but in fact merely describes how the Lord has chosen to bless us. Context is critical in reading Scripture. While there are certain books of the bible which engage heavily in symbolic literature, most Scripture is prose. Of course there is a lot of poetry and metaphoric language, but everything points to Christ and the Gospel. I cannot emphasize enough the intentions of the Reformers, which was not to deny everything the ancient Church had embraced, but only those which were in direct contradiction to clear Scripture. The critical significance of water baptism was one Sacrament that had not been contaminated or altered by men. Lutherans view the entire life of a believer as a remebrance of their adoption as a child of God in Baptism. Baptism is so critical in the life of a Lutheran because it is the Means by which God has given by which a man can recall when Christ transferred him from the Domain of Darkness to the Kingdom of God.Baptism is referred to in Scripture as the adoption of a man by God – a specific event in time/space/eternity a man can point to where the benefits of the work of Christ were applied directly to him. Baptism is an objective fact, similar to the adoption papers issued by human authorities to describe an infant’s becoming part of a family. The beautiful thing about the efficacy of Baptism is that it does not depend upon the person being baptized nor the person acting on behalf of God the baptizer, usually a pastor, but upon the clear promises of Jesus. To a Lutheran Baptism offers clear assurance that the grace of God in Christ has been applied to him personally, resulting in assurance of salvation. It should be noted that the Scriptures are clear that a plant which is not continually watered and nutured can whither and die, thus emphasizing the need for a believer to continually recall his Baptism by remaining in the Word and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. There are many clear warnings of Scripture not to neglect the assembly of fellow saints in Word and Sacrament because a believer remains in the flesh and can be tempted to turn away from sound doctrine and faith. On the other hand, Reformation Theology is extremely radical:

sin no longer has any effect on whether a person goes to heaven or hell. Sin is no longer a part of the equation. Only sinners go to either heaven or hell. Jesus took away the curse of the Law. Sin is not synonymous with disobedience, but rather is a form of idolatry, breaking the first commandment. Every sin rejects Christ. Forgiven sinners is the heart of Repentance. Impenitence implies unbelief in Jesus Christ, the only cause of damnation. The attitude that a believer can haphazardly continue in sin and it doesn’t matter is also unbelief. Many biblical figures rejected Christ, such as Saul and Judas, but Jesus forgave those who rejected Him while hanging on the cross! No one makes a decision for Christ. We are adopted by God:it is God’s work, not ours.No unbeliever can choose Christ. Our works consist not merely deeds, but also thoughts and words, the greatest work being the work of God by which a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ.(John 6:29)

Frank Marron