Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

When I first start interacting with online Catholics a few years ago, I was surprised by their low view of scripture. In fact, some Catholics I have met have an almost hostile stance towards the bible. For people confessing to be Christians, this was a red flag (among many).

Nowadays, this low view of scripture from so many Catholics is easier to understand. I see the issue as a problem of two masters. In this case, Catholics can’t serve both the scriptures and the magisterium.

Sure, most Catholics will give lip service to the authority of scripture. But that authority is soon subjugated to a secondary role when the topic of sola scriptura comes up.

As I said, the low view of scripture amongst Catholics was a red flag for me from the beginning. And for this reason, “Catholics Quotes on the Bible” has been a favorite series of mine.

With that, I leave you with a new quote:

"If Almighty God had in the Bible or elsewhere told us that this book contained the whole of Christianity, we should be on good ground. If Christ Himself had written the book and set it forth as a text-book, so to speak, of His religion, we could rest securely in it, and have no need to inquire farther. That the Bible is not a book, like the Koran for instance, set forth by the founder of the religion as its authoritative exposition, is in fact the fundamental weakness of Bible Protestantism. If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one? Of His ability to do so there can, for the Christian, be no question."

-Plain Facts for Fair Minds (1895)
(with imprimatur)

72 comments:

James Swan said...

...random musings on this (or preaching to the choir)-

Patrick Madrid says sola scriptura voids the word of God because it reduces "the Word of God" to just the written word. This means that some Catholics, like Pat Madrid would actually think they are more devoted to the "Word of God" than a Protestant is.

By making the set "Word of God" bigger, the Bible shares the set with other members (Tradition and magisterial pronouncements)- thus there will always be a difference in the way serious Protestants and serious Catholics view "Word of God." Some of the Catholics I've engaged can quote their Church quicker than they can quote the Bible, but in their minds, they are quoting the Word of God.

By making the set the bigger, the Bible can't help but be reduced in importance. If the Bible is not the sole example of God's Word extant today, it has to share the set with other members- and those other memebers demand to be heard- if 2 out of 3 in the set get a voice, we should expect those 2 out 3 to get the spotlight 2 out of 3 times, if not more.

Tim Enloe said...

It seems likely that the apparently "low" view of the Scriptures propagated by many apologists is basically an immature reaction to their former Fundamentalist Bible-Only attitude. When one passionately believes not just that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith, but that they are really the only RELIABLE source of truth, period, and then when one becomes destabilized in that belief, the easy alternative is to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. Thus "sola" Scriptura tacitly comes to imply for the new convert not the correct Reformation idea that the Scriptures are the only INFALLIBLE rule of faith, but that they are the ONLY rule of faith, period. And from there spring all the arguments about the canon, the transmission and preservation of the text, and the supposed absolute necessity for infallible interpretation. It's a kind of reverse Fundamentalism about the Scriptures.

Howard Fisher said...

It's good to see Carrie back in action.

:-)

BillyHW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BillyHW said...

When do you think you'll get around to quoting this?

http://tinyurl.com/3ecxu

Paul Hoffer said...

As I actually own a copy of the book and having read in its entirety, I think that it would have been more interesting for you folks to deal with the argument Mr. Searles makes; that is, how do Protestants determine that the books that make up the New Testament are actually Scripture? Here is the rest of Mr. Searles' discussion on this point lest someone is further misled as to how Catholics, even in the 19th century, had a hostile stance or low opinion of the Holy Scrptures:

"But the Bible, so far from being such a book, is simply, as far as the New Testament, its important part for us, is concerned, a collection of Christian writings, on its face not essentially more conclusive than the works of other early Christian writers would be, especially if we consider the Gospel of St. Mark, and the Gospel and Acts of St. Luke; for no special reason is evident why their words should be infallible. They were not apostles; and we do not read of their having any peculiar Divine commission to teach Christianity to the world.

Now, this consideration opens another chasm under the feet of Bible Protestants, which would be of itself fatal to them. It is this: what certainty have they, after all, that the books of the Bible were written by inspired men, and that no others were? Why do they admit just these, and reject others? How do they know for sure even that these were written by the authors to whom they are commonly ascribed? For one thing, do they know for sure who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, or even the Gospel themselves? May it not have been some quite irresponsible or merely private author? WHAT CRITICAL OR SCHOLARLY ABILITY OR LEARNING CAN EVER GIVE US THE CERTAINITY WE NEED ON MATTERS LIKE THESE, where Divine faith is so much needed, and error so dangerous? (Emphasis Mine)

The fact is, that this blind faith in the Bible, as Protestants have the book, got together for us English-speaking people under King James, but trusted in as if it had been brought to earth visibly and publicly by an angel from heaven, is an act far more unreasonable and groundless than any which they even charge us Catholics with making.

If they choose to make such a blind act, urging the example of so many good men who have done the same, or claiming that the Spirit of God teaches them to do it, well and good; but let them not claim any special superiority of intelligence, or any particular reasonableness in so doing. Let them not pretend that it is anything more than an assumption, in itself, to say the least, no better than that of one who would believe the Pope to be infallible simply because so many other good people believe the same, or because God seems to inspire him with that conviction.

Reason is as much abandoned in one case as in the other; but the latter view is not that of a Catholic, and I think we shall see that in fact reason has a good deal more to say in favor of the genuine Catholic position.

And I will repeat in conclusion, lest I should seem to despise this holiest of books, that Catholics believe in it and revere it as much as and even more than Protestants; but we have, while they have not, a rational and consistent ground for so doing."

Searle, George M. "Plain Facts for Fair Minds." New York: The Catholic Book Exchange (1895), pp.26-28.


Once you see the citation in relationship with the rest of the argument here, it is obvious that Mr. Searles denies the very thing that Carrie is suggesting.

Rather than setting up and working off another straw man argument, perhaps you folks should try to deal with the actual argument that is being made.

Also, I would be interested in your views of "Dei Verbum" which BillyHW provides the link to. (Here is another link as well: (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html)

To be frank, I have seen the same argument being made by Searles in his book being also raised by St. Francis de Sales, Blessed JH Newman, G.K. Chesterton and Ronald Knox, not to mention many modern-day Catholic apologists. I have never seen a satisfactory Protestant response to it. Most often, the closest they get around to doing so is to splutter about and then claim that Catholics have a low view of Scripture without actually dealing with the meat of the argument. Alas, that holds true here as well (without the spluttering part).

God bless!

Carrie said...

Once you see the citation in relationship with the rest of the argument here, it is obvious that Mr. Searles denies the very thing that Carrie is suggesting.

I disagree with your opinion.

I read the surrounding material but what I see is the usual Catholic apologist double-talk. You affirm the authority of scripture out one side of your mouth and then relegate to a subordinate position from the other side of your mouth.

To assert that Christ would have to write the book himself while incarnate and state it's authority as Mohammed did is just an ignorant argument. But I will grant that this particular quote is a bit subtle with regard to a Catholic's low view of scripture. I've posted less subtle quotes in the past but I unfortunately didn't tag them well or else I would post a link.

I think that it would have been more interesting for you folks to deal with the argument Mr. Searles makes; that is, how do Protestants determine that the books that make up the New Testament are actually Scripture?

Paul, do a search on Triablogue and you will find some excellent answers to this question.

Carrie said...

It's a kind of reverse Fundamentalism about the Scriptures.

Interesting theory, Tim.

Dozie said...

"Paul, do a search on Triablogue and you will find some excellent answers to this question".

Which is to say that while Carrie can cut and paste quotations, she really has no answers.

Matt Oskvarek said...

Paul,

Awhile back I looked over Dei Verbum. From the impression I got, it appeared as if the Scriptures are beginning to emerge as the authority in Catholic thinking (at least from that document). I mean, there is mention of the "Apostolic tradition", but it doesn't seem to have the weight of Scripture in Dei Verbum. Do you think the Catholic understanding of the Christian faith is moving towards a greater priority of Scripture, that is, Scripture even above "sacred tradition"?

I wonder where Catholic thinking will be, say, fifty to a hundred years from now. What direction is it going?

BillyHW said...

The Catholic position fifty to a hundred years from now will be exactly the same as it has been for the last 2000 years: Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium are not opposed to one another. The Word and His Bride the Church are not opposed to one another.

And what's amazing is that the same Catholic Church that's here today will still be around in fifty to a hundred years, while the Protestant church/denomination you belong to will be unrecognizable from what it is today and will have probably split itself into 50 to a 100 mutually contradictory and opposed groups, each claiming the Bible as their sole authority.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Carrie, Happy New Year to you and to yours!

You wrote, "To assert that Christ would have to write the book himself while incarnate and state it's authority as Mohammed did is just an ignorant argument."

Why is it an ignorant argument? If I were a Jew, Muslim, or pagan who did not believe either in the divinity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or that the NT was the divinely inspired Word of God, how would a Protestant prove either? Would your answer be to tell me to go look at Trialblogue? I am not trying to be flippant, obtuse or engage in sophism here, I really want to know the answer you would give. If one were to take the time to actually read what Father Searle wrote in Chapter 5 of the book, he actually provides an outlines as to how a Catholic might do respond, particularly at pgs 57-59. Can a Protestant give a rational, adequate response as well?

Matt, I think that it is great that you have read "Dei Verbum" and see something promising there. However, I do not agree with your underlying premise of your contention. Are you able to cite to any authoritative Catholic document that demonstrates that the Catholic Church has actually ever changed its position from what is indicated in "Dei Verbum?" I would be happy to review and consider whatever evidence you believe you can adduce in support of your contention.

The reason that it may seem that the Catholic Church is "moving in a direction" is probably due to the fact that the documents of Vatican II were specifically written to reflect a pastoral understanding of what the Catholic Church holds as opposed to past councils which used anathema and statements that were designed to confute and contrast Church teaching from what it perceived to be error. Vatican II tried to emphasize what we share in common as Christians rather than accent our differences.

God bless and again Happy New Year to all here!

Carrie said...

If I were a Jew, Muslim, or pagan who did not believe either in the divinity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or that the NT was the divinely inspired Word of God, how would a Protestant prove either? Would your answer be to tell me to go look at Trialblogue?

I tell you to check out Triablogue, Paul, b/c you are aware of much of these arguments and are looking for the type of in-depth tit-for-tat that Triablogue can provide.

As far as talking to a Jew, Muslim or pagan, I doubt this particular argument would come up. Perhaps the inspiration of the whole bible with the latter two. I don't think the Jew would require the arguments for the NT as you since they did not have an infallible authority to define their canon and wouldn't need one from me. For all, the divinity of Christ would probably be a good starting point, but I don't have a regimented apologetic argument for non-believers. Conversations tend to drift naturally to the areas that the non-believer has problems with.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, I can appreciate you not wanting to do an in-depth tit-for-tat. As a solo practitioner attorney, I often do not have the time myself to do such things. I wasn't looking for that though. I merely wanted your thoughts as to why you believed that George Searle's premise was "ignorant."

Contrary to perhaps popular belief, I do value the input from you folks here, which is why I asked (and why I am willing to interact here). Having read the book from which you got the quote, I found it to be a fairly decent read that explained a number of issues in a straightforward, plain English format. If I recall, the book was designed to answer objections from Fundamentalists (I hate that term) ie. solo scripturists as opposed to sola scripturists. Your comments on the book gave me pause to wonder what point I missed that you saw. I really was not trying to put you on the spot.

I would be happy to open the question up to the general readership. Is there any other commenter, Protestant, Catholic or otherwise here, who can tell me why Father Searle's question here is ignorant: "If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one?"

God bless!

Carrie said...

As a solo practitioner attorney, I often do not have the time myself to do such things.

My job is much tougher and time-consuming: MOM :)

(I also work outside the home but that is much easier)

Contrary to perhaps popular belief, I do value the input from you folks here, which is why I asked (and why I am willing to interact here).

I appreciate that as some people are just looking to argue. My time is so limited at the moment that I refuse to waste it on the incorrigible.

Let me give you just a quick answer on this particular quote and maybe the section in general. I won't have time to discuss back and forth but maybe you can see where I am coming from.

"If Almighty God had in the Bible or elsewhere told us that this book contained the whole of Christianity, we should be on good ground."

That is not the Protestant position. The bible is the only infallible source, not the only source.

"If Christ Himself had written the book and set it forth as a text-book, so to speak, of His religion, we could rest securely in it, and have no need to inquire farther."

This, to me, is just an ignorant argument. First, technically Christ did "write" the bible as part of the Godhead (without splitting hairs over roles in the Trinity) so it is silly to act like Christ had no relation to writing the bible. Second, to assert that Christ needed to define a textbook "of His religion" acts like Christianity starts with the book of Matthew. "His" religion was the same as the OT, but the fullness of the revelation wasn't complete.

"That the Bible is not a book, like the Koran for instance, set forth by the founder of the religion as its authoritative exposition, is in fact the fundamental weakness of Bible Protestantism."

Again, how is Jesus the "founder" of his religion - it's misleading (or ignorant) terminology. And I find it insulting to even compare the Bible and the Koran as if Muslims are in better shape than Protestants b/c their "founder" wrote their book. I would expect this type of argument from an atheist.

"If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one?"

See my first answer. God did intend to have his revelation propagated and preserved by means of a book. That's why we have a bible today.

"Of His ability to do so there can, for the Christian, be no question."

I'm not sure what this is suppose to mean. Certainly Catholics believe Christianity is contained in the whole bible and that none of the bible was written by Jesus' human hand - so what? Again, this guy argues like an atheist.


Okay, that is my short answer to the quote I provided here. As far as the rest of the argument from pg 57-59, it's the same old merry-go-round.

Honestly Paul, I cannot wrap my brain around the "how do you know you have the right canon without an infallible authority argument". I know that is the number one favorite argument of online Catholics, but I just don't get it.

According to Searle's argument, you accept that the bible is trustworthy, therefore you accept that Jesus established the Church, then the Church tells you the bible is inspired, so now you accept that. It's a circular argument - I don't see the appeal.

And that horse has been beaten to death, so I won't beat it further. I cannot understand why Catholics think they have some epistemic advantage with that argument.

There's a whole lot more I could say, but that is all I have time for. Perhaps someone else would be willing to discuss further.

Matt Oskvarek said...

Paul, thank you for the response. Actually, from my readings of history, the Catholic Church does seem to encourage more Bible reading in the present age, as contrasted with about 500 to 1000 years ago.

BillyHW, actually the Catholic Church has changed immensely. Continue honest readings of history. You will see that the Catholic Church has repented (de facto) of Inquisitions (burning those who they disagree with). Study the Spanish, Roman and Portuguese Inquisitions. You will simply be amazed. (Or would you say they still burn those with whom they disagree?)

Also, take a look at at the Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.). Big changes since then. Compare with Trent. Wow, read about some of the papel corruptions over the centuries.

However, if you have just convinced yourself that the Catholic Church is constant, pristine and inerrant, there is not much anyone will be able to convince you about either way. You have your presuppositions. However, if you are strong enough, take a look at some history. It requires courage, strength and humilty to read about such things.

Matt

Matt said...

Mr. Oskvarek,

Your opinion about the opposition of Orange to Trent is much more controversial than you may think. It may interest you to study post-Tridentine theologians like Domingo Banez and Diego Alvarez. These are Spanish Dominican theologians, of indisputable orthodox contentions within the Roman Catholic Church after Trent, who quote Orange as much, if not more, than they do Trent.

These theologians were considered the greatest theologians of their age, even by Calvinist theologians in the era of Dordt. Their view was that these councils have different emphases because of the differences in the error that they were confronting.

At any rate, I'd love to see where you see a direct contradiction between these two councils.

Thanks!

Matt Oskvarek said...

Canon 8 of Orange is surely contrasted with Canon V from Trent's Sixth Session.

Don't know. I suppose someone could say "different emphasis" if they want to say as much. Is the will dead before grace, or just wounded? If you believe we must be "born again", is that new birth inclusive of the will? Or is the 'will' not needing new birth, but rather remedy (medicine).

Also, would you agree that the Catholic Church no longer seeks to put to death those who disagree with her teachings? If so, why did they change? Have they changed?

Matt

Matt said...

Matt,

I will not speak at length on the the question of the Inquisition or the implications of John Paul II's condemnation of the Inquisition to the much more serious matter of how the Catholic Church can change. Just read Vatican II's teaching on religious freedom and it is clear that, at the very least, a change has taken place in how Catholic theologians construe the freedom of religion and the appropriate use of violence (even from the days of Pius IX). As a Catholic, that sort of change is not a problem for me--indeed, it has happened throughout the history of the Church. I have always thought that the standard Catholic apologetic techniques regarding the solidity, unchangability, etc., of Rome fail to take into account certain historical realities as well as orthodox views of ecclesiology and revelation. For this, please read Cardinal Avery Dulles' books: Models of Revelation and Models of the Church. (In your response, please take into account that I attempted to say many things in the space of a mere paragraph on a blog. :) )

On the point I made about Orange and Trent, your answer leaves much to be desired. You don't actually quote Trent. But I will say, without hesitation, that Canon 8 would certainly have been accepted by the post-Tridentine theologians, Banez and others. They would say that it is heresy to believe that we can come to faith without prevenient grace. They would say that it is utterly impossible for free will, without the grace of God, to believe in the articles of faith, let alone repent of sin or demonstrate a basic desire for God, which precedes baptism in the order of salvation (for adults, of course).

As for Trent, see Session 6, Chapter 5, where it says that grace comes before any movement whatsoever of man towards salvation.

Now Trent (as did Augustine, of course) discusses cooperation. Even as it discusses prevenient grace, it says that man is somehow involved because he can reject that grace.

But this is where the controversy between Banez and Molina (in the relatively immediate aftermath of Trent) may illuminate how we ought to interpret Trent. Molina said that God gave grace to all men and that the free will of man made that grace efficacious by its acceptance and merely sufficient by its rejection. Banez, on the other hand, said that God's grace is intrinsically efficacious. To put it simply, God gives efficacious grace to the elect and merely sufficient grace to the non-elect. So, the acceptance or rejection/resistance of grace is a consequence, not a cause, of grace being efficacious.

And, you should know, it was Molina and his position which was nearly condemned by Rome in the first decade of the seveteenth century.

So, if this is the case, how can Banez square his position with Trent, which says that the will is involved because it can resist grace. Well, more research is needed, but, as far as I have seen thus far, Banez says that God's grace, while intrinsically efficacious and infallible in its effect, works with/upon human beings in a way suitable to them. God does not act upon human beings as he does upon a rock or an irrational animal. What Banez says is that God is so powerful that, not only does he determine what happens, but he determines the mode of what happens, that is, he does not only infallibly determine that this man will be saved, but he determines that he will be saved in a way suitable to his existence as a rational and free, though fallen, creature.

It is important to realize that, for classic Catholic theologians, free will does not necessarily mean the ability to do works which are pleasing to God or anything of that sort. Free will is the ability to choose between alternatives, in a way different than beasts. It's a very modest definition and it is one which, I dare say, does not contradict even many Calvinist views of how God's grace is irresistable (indeed, I have seen many Calvinists in the era of Dordt who frequently quote Banez and his colleagues). Certainly, we would all (for the most part...R.C. Sproul has, if I am not mistaken, talked about God's grace as a "holy rape of the soul") agree that God's coming to us in his grace and mercy is free from any hint of coercion. This is because God, as opposed (for instance) to other human beings attempting to "determine" our will, can work as an internal cause, as He is the ground of our very being.

Anyway, if I am not mistaken, you have counseled Catholics on this blog to examine their claims in a historical way. I ask you to do the same.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, Thank you for your response. It certainly offers a perspective on how you feel on the issue as as well as insight as to how Protestants would answer the question posed by Father Searle.

Since you were kind enough to provide an answer to my queries, it is only fair that I give you a summary of my thoughts on the subject.

I believe that Father Searle's question is a fair one because the answer to it shows the importance of the role of the Church in both the writing down Our Lord's Gospel message as instructed by Our Lord (through divine inspiration) and in the transmission of that message through how the Gospel has been preached and used by the Church in its liturgy, its rites, etc. Now mind you, as I stated earlier the book itself (Plain Facts) was written to address issues pertaining to SOLO scriptura as opposed to sola scriptura which does in fact acknowledge a role of the Church in both the writing down of Our Lord's Gospel as He wanted and in the Gospel's transmission.

Where we part ways, I think, is how the Church's role is viewed. Both BillyHW and Mr. Enloe touched upon it. Contrary to what some folks may think, Catholics do not have "low" opinion of the Scriptures; rather we consider them to be so Holy that we also believe to protect the integrity of the inspired texts and their message, we also believe that Christ appointed a divinely inpired agent, the Church, to make sure that the Gospel message was/is correctly transmitted and understood. As was pronounced in "Dei Verbum" 10:

"Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls." [Footnotes excluded]

And so there is no misunderstanding, here is what the definition of Tradition is in "Dei Verbum" #8:

"Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16)." [Footnotes omitted]

Anyway, over 40 years ago when I was a kid, Monsignor Halter, explained the roles of Scripture, Church and tradition in a kind of analogy:

Imagine that the Church/Body of Christ as a symphony orchestra. The individual instruments of all kinds are the people who make up the Church. The Scriptures is the sheets of music that the orchestra is to play. Tradition is the training each person receives in order to play their instrument correctly and the Magisterium is the conductor to make sure that the Orchestra plays together.

All of these things are equally important for the Orchestra to produce a beautiful symphony. Without the sheets of music/Scripture, the Orchestra would not what to play; without the training/Tradition, the music could not be played correctly and without the conductor, the Orchestra, no matter how talented each player was, could not play together harmoniously.

God bless!

P.S. I agree that being a mom is the toughest job around and the most important, especially to raise children as Christians in today's society. As a father, I sometimes feel relegated to playing chauffeur.

Paul Hoffer said...
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Matt Oskvarek said...

Paul, Thank you for your lengthy response. However, would you agree that the Catholic church has changed from putting to death those it disagrees with? If so, has the Catholic church changed? If they have, then why?

P.S. I have no problem saying that Protestant churches have changed (even being sanctified from sins of the past). Would you say the same thing about the Roman Catholic Church? Or has the church always been in a pristine state of being, in your understanding.

Would you answer that directly and unambiguously? Appreciate it.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Matt O.

You stated, "Actually, from my readings of history, the Catholic Church does seem to encourage more Bible reading in the present age, as contrasted with about 500 to 1000 years ago."

My response: That is true merely because the printing press and education has made the Scriptures more available for all to read.

Before those times, the faithful went to Church far more often than many are accustomed to doing nowadays. The readings of Scripture during Mass, not to mention the sermon and the liturgy of the Mass are full of the Scriptures. A person going to Mass over a three year period would have heard approximately 70-80% of the Scriptures read at Mass. The sacraments themselves, the stained glass windows, the Holy Water and the sacramentals used by the Church in day to day activities of the faithful, the music that was sung at Mass, all reflect the life of Christ, indeed much of the Holy Writ. I think you would find that even the average serf's knowledge of the Gospel and the Holy Bible would compare well with many folks today, both Protestant and Catholic. Communities would give up their time, talent and treasure to have a Bible manuscript placed in their Church so all who could read, could read it and those who could not read, could hear it read to them. Your view reflects an unacceptable a-historical bias.

You said: "Also, would you agree that the Catholic Church no longer seeks to put to death those who disagree with her teachings? If so, why did they change? Have they changed?"

My response: You confuse doctrine with matters of discipline. Certainly you would not disagree that putting heretics to death is not unbiblical?

Furthermore, before you throw stones at the Catholic Church, you need to first look at the history of the reformers. They did not keep their hands unbloodied. Here is the sentence of St. Edmund Campion and his companions for "treason" which is what heresy was called in 17th century England:

"[Y]e shall be drawn through the open City of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, and thereby hanged and let down alive, and your privys parts cut off, and your entrails taken out and burnt in your sight; then your head to be cut off and your bodies divided into four parts, to be disposed of at her Majesty's pleasure."

Anyone interested can find St. Edmund Campion's story told in a compelling and factual manner by English writer, Evelyn Waugh.

Tell me,would you agree that the Protestant Churches no longer seek to use the instruments of State to put to death those who disagree with their teachings? If so, why did they change? Have they changed?

Matt Oskvarek said...

Mr. Paul,
I will not be exchanging with you anymore. You are not able to answer direct questions.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Matt O. I apologize for not responding to you so quickly. I do a hour of Eucharistic Adoration at my Church. That responsibility that I signed up for supersedes my personal pursuits. I also didn’t realize that you had posted a comment in response to the remarks I deleted and re-posted after correcting some grammar and removing a fact that I could not prove quickly. I will endeavor to answer your questions now.

You asked:

Q. [W]ould you agree that the Catholic church has changed from putting to death those it disagrees with?

A. To answer this question, I need to correct a misapprehension that you have. To my knowledge and belief, I am not aware of the Church itself putting someone to death who disagreed with its teachings. As the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) under the heading of “Capital Punishment” states:

“Canon law has always forbidden clerics to shed human blood and therefore capital punishment has always been the work of the officials of the State and not of the Church. Even in the case of heresy, of which so much is made by non-Catholic controversialists, the functions of ecclesiastics were restricted invariably to ascertaining the fact of heresy. THE PUNISHMENT, WHETHER CAPITAL OR OTHER, WAS BOTH PRESCRIBED AND INFLICTED BY CIVIL GOVERNMENT. The infliction of capital punishment is not contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, and the power of the State to visit upon culprits the penalty of death derives much authority from revelation and from the writings of theologians. The advisability of exercising that power is, of course, an affair to be determined upon other and various considerations.” [Emphasis added]. See also, the entry under “Heresy”.

Perhaps you can provide me an actual example of an instance that contradicts that statement and I will deal with it. With the exception of England, where the head of state was also the head of the Church as well, I believe that that the same statement I made about the Catholic Church holds true to rebut similar charges against Protestant ecclesiastical bodies as well. The state has traditionally reserved to itself the authority and privilege of putting people to death. I do not about the Eastern rites or the Orthodox, not being familiar with Oriental legal codes.

Q. If so, has the Catholic church changed?

A. Yes, while the imposition of the death penalty is still licit as shown by paragraphs #2266 and 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as promulgated in 1992 and revised in 1997, the Church does frown on civil authorities imposing the death penalty in criminal matters. In the case of heresy in Western cultures, I am not aware of any country in Europe, Australia or the Americas since the 18th century that imposed capital punishment, against either Protestant or Catholic for practicing their faith. However, with that being said, there are numerous instances of Christians (both Protestant and Catholics) being executed for apostasy or for evangelization in many countries where Islam, Hindooism or Atheism is the official religion.

Q. If they have, then why? As I stated, the teaching of the Church is that capital punishment is licit but is presently discouraged on the ground of the dignity of all human life. That is why Catholics, such as myself, are still free to believe that there are situations where the death penalty is appropriate and morally right despite the fact that American Bishops overwhelmingly oppose the death penalty currently in all situations. Both the documents of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” address this point.

BTW, I personally do not believe it is wise to make heresy one of those situations although the way that some Catholic politicians cause scandal to my Church, I would sure like to sic Sister Mary Albert from my first grade on them. She knew how to rap knuckles with a ruler.

Matt Oskvarek said...

Paul,
Thank you for answering as such.
Have you read any of the works by George Weigel? Is so, what do you think about his writing?

Matt

Rhology said...

"If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one?"

B/c He didn't want to.
What kind of "hard" question is that?
It's much like John W Loftus' "Birdman" argument. Carrie is right - I see RCs forwarding arguments fairly often that would be much better suited for the lips of an atheist.
If you think He should have written it Himself, please say why, and say why you think your reasoning is better than the Lord of the universe's. Then watch the weather forecast - you don't want any electrical storms coming 'round.

Constantine said...

Hi Paul Hoffer,

Here is an excellent article on the topic of the Canonicity of Scripture. Written by a Protestant scholar I think it will provide a much more thorough response than can be given on a blog.

http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/bible/bahnsen_canon.html

Have a Happy New Year!

Constantine said...

BillyHW,

50 to 100 years ago Catholics believed, ala Vatican I, that salvation is only available to those "in submission to the Supreme Roman Pontiff ". But in February of 2008, Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote in First Things magazine that even "atheists could be saved". That is certainly a big change. Especially given that Cardinal Dulles is part of the Magesterium of the Church.

But your position is not even held by Catholic scholars anymore.

For example, I offer a quote by Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman used by the Jesuit trained Catholic scholar, Dr. Gary Wills regarding the changing nature of the papacy:

The papacy did not come into existence at the same time as the church. In the words of John Henry Newman, “While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope.” Peter was not a bishop in Rome. There were no bishops in Rome for at least a hundred years after the death of Christ. The very term “pope” (papa, daddy) was not reserved for the bishop of Rome until the fifth century – before then it was used of any bishop (S. 89). ….
Wills, Garry. Why I am a Catholic. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 2002. p. 54


So not even the central doctrine of the Roman church is without change.

I wish you a Happy New Year!

Constantine said...

Hi Paul Hoffer,

You wrote:
My response: That is true merely because the printing press and education has made the Scriptures more available for all to read.

The printing press has been available for coming up on 600 years. So why would that account for the increase in biblical studies by Catholics today?

The real reason that Catholics now study the Bible is because they are not under penalty to do so. As the Catholic historian Gary Wills notes, beginning with the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), Catholics were forbidden to study the Scriptures on their own. Here is Dr. Wills’ comment:

“The pope (Leo XIII) did so much lasting damage to Biblical scholarship (in the Catholic Church) when he set up the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1902, which for decades would police Catholic thought on the Bible, threatening and punishing any exegetes who departed from its directives…. Catholic professors, thus fettered, became a laughingstock in the world of biblical scholarship.”
Wills, Garry. Why I am a Catholic. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 2002. p. 202

Nobody wants to be a laughingstock. So nobody in the Catholic Church studied the Bible for fear of reprisal, no matter how often it was read at Mass.

Dr. Hans Kung, a long time friend of the current pope, notes that this trend continued under Leo’s successor, Pius X (1902-1914). Fr. Kung notes:

“…Pius X suppressed any reconciliation of Catholic teaching with modern science or knowledge. Under the disparaging label “modernism” he led an anti-modern cleansing action on a grand scale, a formal heresy hunt against all reform theologians, especially exegetes and historians. In France, Germany, North America, and Italy proceedings were taken against the Catholic intellectual elite with sanctions of various kinds (the Index, excommunication, dismissal).”
Kueng, Hans. The Catholic Church: A Short History. Trans. John Bowden. United States: Modern Library - Random House Publishing Group, 2003. p. 173

So the real reason that Catholics are studying the Bible more now, is their church no longer sanctions them to do it – not because of printing presses. And “education” is allowed because their bishops and priests are no longer in danger of losing their jobs for allowing it in the parish. The influence of the machinery that worked well into the 20th century to thwart Bible study is only now losing its influence. And that is the real reason Catholics can now study the Bible.

Peace to you, and have a great New Year!

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Matt O. I have heard Mr. Weigel speak on the radio and have read some of his work in Catholic publications. From what I have heard, his views on moral issues (he is an ethicist as well as a theologian and writer) pretty much reflect present Catholic teachings as opposed to how many more progressive Catholics feel on issues. I also own two books written by Mr. Weigel (I am sad to say I have not had the chance to read either of them all the way through yet).

Hello Constantine: I read the article by Dr. Bahnsen before. While it is typical of many reformed writers on the issues pertaining to canon, I feel it understates the actual historical facts. The deuterocanonical books were cited to as Scripture by many of the Early Church fathers, including St. Athanasius, his festal letter notwithstanding.

If you really want to see what the early Church considered to be canonical, I would suggest that you actually read the works of the fathers. You will find almost every one of them citing to and quoting from deuterocanonical works as Scripture. In fact, in doing so, you would find St. Irenaeus specifically defending the use of the Septuagint that contained the 7 books of the OT that Protestants reject against the Jews:

"Since, therefore, the Scriptures have been interpreted with such fidelity, and by the grace of God, and since from these God has prepared and formed again our faith towards His Son, and has preserved to us the unadulterated Scriptures in Egypt, where the house of Jacob flourished, fleeing from the famine in Canaan; where also our Lord was preserved when He fled from the persecution set on foot by Herod; and [since] this interpretation of these Scriptures was made prior to our Lord's descent [to earth], and came into being before the Christians appeared — for our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus; but Ptolemy was much earlier, under whom the Scriptures were interpreted—[since these things are so, I say,] truly these men are proved to be impudent and presumptuous, who would now show a desire to make different translations, when we refute them out of these Scriptures, and shut them up to a belief in the advent of the Son of God. But our faith is steadfast, unfeigned, and the only true one, having clear proof from these Scriptures, which were interpreted in the way I have related; and the preaching of the Church is without interpolation. For the apostles, since they are of more ancient date than all these [heretics], agree with this aforesaid translation; and the translation harmonizes with the tradition of the apostles. For Peter, and John, and Matthew, and Paul, and the rest successively, as well as their followers, did set forth all prophetical [announcements], just as the interpretation of the elders contains them." Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter XXI, 3.

It would be interesting to see Dr. Bahnsen actually explain stuff like this as opposed to merely repeating the "company" line. A more balanced approach to the canonicity of Scripture may be found in JND Kelly's "Early Christian Doctrines, Chapter III.

God bless!

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Constantine:

Neither Wills or Kung are folks who I would rely upon for accurate information about the Catholic Church. They are both extremely progressive in their views and often are voices of dissent in the Church.

I can refute what they claim in my own den. A simple point of fact~while I am typing this, I happen to be looking at my wife's family bible which happens to be a Catholic one in German that is over 200 years old. I personally own a Douay-Rheims Bible in English that is 110 years old. In that bible is both an English translation of Pope Leo XIII's "Providentissimus Deus" written in 1893 to encourage bible study in the Church and also notes that in the Bible was published (1898), Leo XIII granted an indulgence to all the faithful who read the Bible at least 15 minutes daily to encourage the reading of Scripture. So much for Wills and Kung...

I will acknowledge that the Church has opposed the laity reading unauthorized or poor translations of the Scriptures. But that has never meant that the Church kept the Scriptures from the faithful.

God bless!

Matt said...

Constantine,

Ditto on Wills!

The campaign against modernism and "Biblical scholarship" were opposed to what most conservative Protestants refer to as "Higher Criticism," which I think is an important qualification to your larger point.

And we should all admit (I'm Catholic) that, after the Reformation, many Catholic theologians and ecclesiastics were very, very hesitant, if not opposed, to lay Bible reading, esp. scholarly (as opposed to devotional) reading. However, much more research remains to be done in this little-studied area. The important point is that the Council of Trent certainly did not forbid vernacular translations outright; it required them to be approved by the spiritual authorities in the particular diocese (and of course there were some other requirements...)

For an interesting discussion of how it was the Reformation which changed policy on this matter, see

http://books.google.com/books?id=BQ3jrXAfueIC&pg=RA1-PA153&lpg=RA1-PA153&dq=Trent+Vernacular+translations&source=web&ots=W8REgek6be&sig=ZGE9nuujN6R_vL6D593F5W-l8yc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

kaycee said...

Paul,

A bit off the subject, but in response to the Canon.

Great article by William Webster demonstrating that Church for over a 1000 years (Jerome to Cajetan) held to the protestant canon.

The overall practice of the Western Church with respect to the canon from the time of Jerome (early fifth century) until the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome. The Apocryphal books were accorded a deuterocanonical status, but were not regarded as canonical in the strict sense. That is, they were not accepted as authoritative for the establishing of doctrine but were used for the purpose of edification. Thus, the Church retained the distinctions established by Jerome, Rufinus and Athanasius of ecclesiastical and canonical books.

http://www.christiantruth.com/Apocrypha3.html

Matt said...

I'll have to read this article, but it seems to me that Thomas Aquinas clearly uses the Book of Wisdom in the same way as he uses the other texts of the Bible. Moreover, Cajetan was sharply criticized for his views on the Deutero-Canonical books.

Also, wasn't Jerome also sharply criticized by Augustine for his view, even to the point of changing his mind?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Kaycee! Thank you for that link. Mr. Webster's study is a bit more scholarly than Dr. Bahnsen's work. Nevertheless, I have read two different refutations of his article. One by Scott Windsor: http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2007/04/canon-catholic-response-to-webster.html

and one by Dr. Sippo: http://catholic-legate.com/dialogues/webstercanon.html.

Nevertheless, I appreciate you providing me the link so that I can now line the arguments up against each other and see for myself who is right or wrong.

Hi Rhology:

You wrote: "If you think He should have written it Himself, please say why, and say why you think your reasoning is better than the Lord of the universe's."

My response: I do not believe that my reasoning is better than the Lord of the universe. However, since you do not believe that Christ established an infallible Church first to recognize which writings were actually inspired and second to interpret their meaning, how else are we to be led to believe that this man was the Son of God and that His teachings were divine? We Catholics believe that is those who subscribe to the doctrine of sola scriptua that is denying that Lord of the universe's way of transmitting His Word to us is better.

If one is to believe the Gospel of Jesus, how can do so without also accepting the veracity of the Church as His living witness to the truths that He taught? In such an instance, wouldn’t it be best if we get this story straight from Our Lord's hand?

As a Catholic, I do not think that Christ needed to write a handbook or Scriptures by his own hand. God used the Church as His means to do so. The words are God's alone, but God used the Church as His hand to write them down. With the reduced role of the Church that is given even under sola scriptura, how does Scripture prove itself?

Hi Matt:

RE: Criticism of St. Jerome by ST. Augustine, I believe St. Augustine did criticize Jerome's views on the Scriptures, but one needs to remember that Jerome also acquiesed to the authority of the Church and included the deuterocanonical works in the Vulgate translation.

God bless all!

Constantine said...

Hi Paul Hoffer,
Not “so much for Wills and Kung”.

Both men are devout Catholics having been trained at Catholic institutions. Both are PhD’s. Both are widely published. If you are refuting any of their findings I’m glad to know about it. But a 15-minute reading of a Catholic Bible doesn’t refute them.

Citing PD is only a distraction. You know, as well as I do, that there are NO Bible classes in Catholic schools. There are NO Bibles in Catholic Churches. (Sorry, lectionaries don’t count!) So if the purpose of PD was to encourage Bible Study among Catholics, and Catholic schools don’t teach it and Catholic Churches don’t have Bibles, it was a dismal failure. What explains the contrary result? There were forces at work within the Church to stifle Bible study, as outlined by Drs. Wills and Kung.

Peace.

Carrie said...

Also, wasn't Jerome also sharply criticized by Augustine for his view, even to the point of changing his mind?

Yes, he was criticized, but he does not appear to have changed his mind. See here

Also, the Council of Trent decided to leave the dispute between Augustine and Jerome open. See here

Moreover, Cajetan was sharply criticized for his views on the Deutero-Canonical books.

By who?

Constantine said...

Hi Paul Hoffer,

You didn’t like my choice of Wills and Kung, but you like the medical doctor, Art Sippo! Now that’s interesting!

To say that God needs to establish an “infallible Church” on earth to do His work is to undo your requirement that we get “…this story straight from Our Lord's hand”. The insertion of a middleman (i.e. the Church) negates getting the information “straight from Our Lord”. What could be clearer?

Not only that but it clearly contradicts Scripture. God spoke through Jeremiah telling us that when He creates people for the New Covenant that,

“I (God) will put my law in their minds and write in on their hearts…” so that “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," (Jeremiah 31:33-34). (BTW – this passage is so important that the writer of Hebrews quoted it in its entirety in chapter 8 of that book.)

So God specifically denies what you assert. No longer will those of Christ’s covenant need someone to tell them what to think, because God has already written it on our hearts! So to assert the need for a church to do that teaching is – well – unbiblical. (I’d be curious if there is an infallible interpretation of Jeremiah from the Magisterium.)

That’s how we get information directly. That’s what enabled Jesus to say, “My sheep KNOW me” - because He created them that way. Not because they were taught by humans.

Until next time – peace!

Rhology said...

Paul H said:
how else are we to be led to believe that this man was the Son of God and that His teachings were divine?

the Holy Spirit working in the heart to convict us of God's revelation. What else?


1) how can do so without also accepting the veracity of the Church as His living witness to the truths that He taught? 2) In such an instance, wouldn’t it be best if we get this story straight from Our Lord's hand?

1) I do accept THAT church as a witness. You're not a member of that church, though; you're a member of the modern RCC.
2) No it would not, b/c God decided not to do it that way.


With the reduced role of the Church that is given even under sola scriptura, how does Scripture prove itself?

Heb 6:13 and John 10.

Matt said...

For general opposition to Cajetan's Bible commentaries, see here and following pages (I hope this works):

http://books.google.com/books?id=oMLk3CEX6CoC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=Catharinus+newadvent&source=bl&ots=WKOVyW_hG-&sig=mkhqXzUpW8RR-20TbYMwSxZfZCk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA156,M1

For a brief indication of one theologian's disputation of Cajetan's view on the "Apocrypha", see (I could find more...but most references I am aware of are not available online):

http://books.google.com/books?id=oMLk3CEX6CoC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=Catharinus+newadvent&source=bl&ots=WKOVyW_hG-&sig=mkhqXzUpW8RR-20TbYMwSxZfZCk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA156,M1

As for Kung and Wills, they are obviously well-educated and brilliant men, but not altogether reliable, esp. if you want to use them in an argument as "Catholic scholars". Kung was stripped of his privilege to teach in official Catholic institutions by the CDF (or something like that). Wills is notoriously liberal; there is a reason he had to write "Why I am a Catholic." This point really should not be up for debate as to their ideological position.

But certainly there is no denying that there was a campaign against Modernism by Pius X. There are certain elements aimed at Higher Criticism (which may find common cause with conservative Protestants) and there are others which are more particularly pre-Vatican II RCC:

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10lamen.htm

Finally, though I usually don't like to occupy myself with the more polemical and even hateful things said on the blog, I wondered how Rhology could justify his claim to knowing who is or is not in the Invisible Church?

Rhology said...

I'll grant you polemical, but hateful? You lost me.
Anyway, what did I say that led you to the conclusion that I think I know who's in the Invisible Church?

Matt said...

This is what gave me the "impression":

"I do accept THAT church as a witness. You're not a member of that church, though; you're a member of the modern RCC."

But now I realize that you were referring to the Ancient Church. And it is your contention that there is a radical disjunction between the Ancient Church and the modern Roman Catholic Church. Right?

I apologize for my careless reading in this instance and for the inferences I drew about the comment. My fault...

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Constantine: In reference to Kung and Wills, I would note the following. The fact that these gentlemen claim to be devout Catholics and were trained at Catholic institutions, is not relevant. I consider myself a devout Catholic and have had 12 years of formal Catholic education too. Yet you don't defer to my qualifications.

Note that unlike myself, Kung was specifically stripped of his right to teach at Catholic institutions because of his heterodox views. Garry Wills’s views are equally heterodox. He is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, denies the efficacy of the sacraments, and most other doctrines of the Catholic Church teaches. Frankly, unless you are a Muslim, Jew, or a Mormon, I am certain that you are more “catholic” than he is. The fact that these gentlemen can sell alot of books and have supporters among those who do not agree with the Church's teachings does not make them qualified to teach Catholic doctrine or motivates me to accept what they say uncritically.

Additionally, I note your criticism of Dr. Sippo’s credentials. However, I wasn’t citing to him because of his credentials, but merely because he provided factual information that rebutted Webster’s assertions. You can check his and Mr. Windsor's citations against Websters to see for yourself who is more accurate. Evidently, Professor White thought his credentials were significant enough to debate him.

Getting to the nub of it, citing to two heterodox dissenters who both have agendas against the Church is not enough to establish your point. These men claim that the Church repressed bible study. I provided you with concrete evidence found in my own home that their statements were untrue. I am sorry that you do not find my evidence acceptable. I will try harder now.

First, Catholic schools. Bible study does go on in Catholic schools. I know that to be true because I spent twelve years going to Catholic schools. I am here discussing apologetic issues with you in part due to the love of Scriptures that was inculcated into me by my teachers from the first grade through my senior year. Of course, these gentlemen are both 20+ years older than me. Perhaps they didn't teach the bible while they were in school, which might explain why they are both so deficient when it comes to understanding and teaching the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Both of my children went to Catholic schools. I can assure you that bible study was a regular part of their homework while they were there. My daughter, a freshman at a Catholic high school, is presently studying the Old Testament in her religious studies course. The difference is that in Catholic schools, at least the ones that I am familiar with, religion classes focus more on how to live the Gospel message as opposed to mere rote memorization of verses like one gets in a Sunday school class. Religion is a part of the student's daily life, not just something they get for 1 hour at Sunday school.

You claim that there are no Bibles in Catholic Churches. Have you ever looked at one of the missals found in every pew? The readings are all reproduced in the missal so a person does not have to lug their own copy of the Bible to church. Today’s readings from Scripture were from Isaiah 60, Psalm 72, Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2. How many verses did you hear preached today? BTW, here is a link to a list of scripture readings for every Mass for every day of the week for the next year: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/inspiration.htm.

Additionally, at my parish, there is both a men’s and a lady’s scripture study that meets weekly. There is also a young adult’s bible study that meets bi-weekly as well. My church is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since 1943 so devout Catholics can pray, read the Bible (there are 5 copies on the “Perpetual Adoration” shelf in case someone forgets to bring their own) or engage in other devotional studies (there are bible concordances, commentaries and literature by dozens of Catholic authors on various apologetic subjects on the shelves as well) when they come to do a holy hour with Our Lord.

I am afraid that you are simply suffering from a horrible case of misinformation, courtesy in part due to the efforts of Messrs. Wills & Kung. I must ask, how much of your information is based on actual knowledge versus hearsay?

You also said, “To say that God needs to establish an “infallible Church” on earth to do His work is to undo your requirement that we get “…this story straight from Our Lord's hand”. The insertion of a middleman (i.e. the Church) negates getting the information “straight from Our Lord”. What could be clearer?”

My response: Now who doesn’t know their bibles. Since the Church is the “body of Christ,” I would humbly submit that information that one gets from it is coming “straight from Our Lord.” See, Rom. 12: 4-8; 1 Cor. 12; Col. 1:24. Unfortunately, it is the Protestant view that makes the Church the middleman. You place the Church at opposition to Christ, when in fact they are one and the same as St. Paul states in plain and unequivocal terms. Remember Christ's warning at Mt. 12:30.

BTW, I am interested on your take on what St. Paul is talking about when he says at Eph. 1:22-23 where he writes, “And He put all things beneath His feet and gave Him as head of all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.” And again at Eph. 3:10, “ [T]hat through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.”

Thus, unless St. Paul is contradicting Jeremiah 31:33-34, I would suggest that the Church is the pen God uses to write His law on to our hearts..

You said: “No longer will those of Christ’s covenant need someone to tell them what to think, because God has already written it on our hearts!” If God has already written on our hearts by direct transmission, why would we need Bibles at all? Not to mention the commentaries, the innumerable concordances, lexicons, etc. There would be absolutely no need for those things whatsoever. If what you are saying is correct, why would any church, let alone the Catholic churches, have need of bibles in their pews? Are we to assume that churches that have bibles in their pews consist of people that God did not write the law into their hearts? My goodness, Constantine, using your logic, what is one to deduce from your previous assertion that Catholics don’t have bibles in their pews? I believe you need to rethink your argument here.

Hi Rhology:

I do not disagree with the fact that one is brought to faith by the workings of the Holy Spirit in the heart, I am suggesting that the role the Church has is part of that working.

With that being said, I am glad to see that we can agree that the Church is a living witness to the truths that Christ taught even though we disagree on which Church that is. At least now, it makes it possible for folks like us to focus on what unites us as well as the things that divide us. I must ask though: do you believe that there was an another version of the RCC since you suggest that I am a member merely of the “modern” RCC, like a RCC version 2.0? Does this mean you acknowledge that some older version of the RCC is the true Church is that living witness?

And if you do believe this, can you tell me when you believe this modern RCC came into being? I am not asking to be facetious, but it would be helpful in the future in addressing points.

I asked you how Scripture proves itself. While you responded with John 10 and Heb. 6:13, I do not see where they state that Scripture proves itself. The reference to the sheepfold in John 10 is clearly a reference to His Church in which the sheep hear Christ’s voice. Note in verse 3 the shepherd (Christ) calls his sheep (the faithful) by name and leads them out. They are already in the sheepfold, i.e, the Church. The sheep knows His voice because they became accustomed to Him while in the sheepfold (the Church). The Church is the means by which the sheep become accustomed to Christ and learn His voice. The reason the sheep learned to know Christ's voice was because they were in the sheepfold (the Church) to begin with.

As for Hebrews 6:13, I understand that Bahnsen uses this as a sort of prooftext for sola scriptura, but I do not see how it supports such a thing. This references a covenant that God made with Abraham which He sealed with His own vow. If you believe that this suggests that God can self-authenticate His Word I have no problem with that, but that is not how He chose to do that. Christ delegated that to His apostles and subsequently to His Church to whom He sent the Holy Spirit. See, Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18, John 14:16, John 16:13, Acts 1:20-26.

God bless!

Rhology said...

Hi Paul,

There was a different Christian church at the time in question. 'Twasn't the RCC at all, since most of the distinctives of modern RCC weren't present there and then.
No, I don't know when the modern RCC came about. It was a slow, gradual dvlpmnt.
Heb 6:13 - Scr is God speaking. By what greater authority can we prove God to be true?
I did not appeal to Bahnsen or to sola scriptura, b/c that was not in discussion here. It's in answer to your specific question.

that is not how He chose to do that.

Then why does it say that He did just that very thing in Heb 6:13?
Just b/c He calls others to proclaim it and perform miracles as signs to verify their God-given authority to some people and to teach it doesn't exclude the first statement.


John 10 - When God speaks, God speaks. Again, there is no one higher by whom to swear. God is the final Word, period.
In John 10:3, Jesus calls the sheep out. From where? Out of darkness, into the sheep pen, the church, salvation. The sheep know His voice partially b/c they become accustomed to it, yes, but at first b/c He calls them out.

But this:
The reason the sheep learned to know Christ's voice was because they were in the sheepfold (the Church) to begin with.

does not fit in the psg at all. It is not the case that they came into the Church b/c they were in the Church. This statement needs reworking.

Rhology said...

Matt,

Yes.
And no problem. :-)

Nick said...

I obviously came late to this discussion (over 45 responses), so this might have already been discussed.

I'll just make a few points and hope they have not been mentioned 44 times already.

1)The Catholic Church does not have a "low view" of Scripture, it officially has the highest view possible.

2)The "scriptures versus magisterium" comment is misguided, the two are not opposed or in a power struggle.
Putting them in opposition is as absurd as an artists saying the paint is more necessary than the brush...in reality there is no power struggle for they are not mutually exclusive but rather serve two critical functions.

3)Catholics dont pay lip service when Sola Scriptura comes up, rather we stick to what Scripture really says:
http://catholicdefense.googlepages.com/westminsterch1

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology, re: John 10:3...the passage clearly shows the Shepherd calling the sheep out of the sheepfold to follow him to pasture.

Your problem with interpreting this passage is the fact that you are trying to force some sort of meaning that isn't there. The audience to whom Jesus was speaking understood what he was talking about because they understood animal husbandry. Sheep are very intelligent, gregarious animals. They are capable of learning to recognize voices and faces of humans through familiarity and trust.

The reason the sheep recognize the shepherd's voice in John is because the shepherd raised them, nutured them and protected them. They learned to recognize the Shepherd's voice and His face. That was done in the sheepfold, i.e the Church.

As far as Heb. 6:13, I do not disagree that God can seal His covenants such as the one He made with Abraham with a vow on His own certitude, but you haven't made the case that God vouched for the rest of Scriptures using that particular method of verification. Why do we not see at the end of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans a paragraph from God vowing that St. Paul's words are His? Show me where God covenanted with us that all of the books of the Bible, whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, are His Scriptures and then seal their veracity a vow on His own certitude.

In contrast, the NT does show in several places that God appointed a Church to do that in His stead. See for example, Eph. 3:10. Such a view is consistent with how Catholics view the means God gave us to recognize the books that comprise Scripture.

Again, let me be clear, I agree with you that God gave us the means to recognize divine Scripture, we only disagree on what those means are.

God bless!

Rhology said...

Paul,

John 10 doesn't say that the shepherd raised them. It doesn't say how they learned to recognise the shepherd's voice, so it's eisegesis to say that "that was done in the sheepfold, the Church".


Heb 6:13 - when God speaks, there is no one greater by whom to verify or test the statement. Agreed?
2 Tim 3:16 - the Scr is God speaking. There you go.

So you believe that God would reveal Himself in holy books and then NOT make sure that His people know which ones they are?
Oh wait, I guess you do - your church can provide neither a set Canon of Scr nor a set Canon of its own infallible teachings. Never mind. Anyway, I'm sure you're familiar with James White's Canon(1) and Canon(2) argument.

And yes, God used the church to understand what the Scr is, of course. Who else? The church is God's people. How does it follow that the ch is therefore superior in authority to the Scr or that the ch is infallible?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology: you said, "John 10 doesn't say that the shepherd raised them. It doesn't say how they learned to recognise the shepherd's voice, so it's eisegesis to say that "that was done in the sheepfold, the Church"."

My response, it is not eisegesis to try to discern what Christ was saying by utilizing my understanding of Jewish 1st century AD agrarian culture and my knowledge (albeit limited) of animal husbandry (I grew up in rural small town Ohio where a number of my uncles and cousins farm and raise livestock, including sheep. One of my ancestors was the first to bring Merino sheep to the US.) That is called hermeneutics. How can one properly understand the passage without knowing how shepherds shepherd?

As far as 2 Tim 3:16 goes, it says that all Scripture is inspired. That is true. It does not state that all of the Scriptures were provided to us in the same manner that God made His covenant with Abraham at Hebrews 6:13. They weren't. God used intermediaries to write down what God inspired them to say.

BTW if I tied two passages like the way you are trying to do, I would have quoted 2 Tim 3:15 to bolster my argument about how the sheep learned to know Christ's voice.

I am aware the straw man argument that White uses in an effort to minimize the role the Church with His Canon (1)/Canon (2) distinction. Perhaps there is some nuance that you are aware of that is not contained in His work "Scripture Alone." I do not know how you can believe that White's argument can work when it is contradicted by clear references to the contrary in passages like Eph. 3:9-10. God either enlightens all men of His manifold wisdom through His Church or St. Paul was wrong, thus giving one indication that Ephesians is not Scripture. As a Catholic, I believe He does reaveal truth without error through His Church just like St. Paul says.

God bless!

EBW said...

Hello everyone. This is my first time on a blog. Be patient. At the request of a friend, I am enter the "blog world". More reading than writing at first. Thanks for having me.

Carrie, Jesus Christ is the Prophet-Priest-King appointed by the Father and anointed by the Spirit. Assume typology is true (to some extent), then we could say Moses-Ezra-David are types of Christ. Notice how each one has made profound contributions to what we Christians call 'Scripture'. Why did Jesus, who was the anti-type of these three, not author a single word of scripture as these 'types'?
Thanks for your consideration.

James Swan said...

Why did Jesus, who was the anti-type of these three, not author a single word of scripture as these 'types'?

False question. God wrote the entire Bible.

EBW said...

I thought answers were false. Fine. God wrote the Bible. Is this more accurate...Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me (Jesus)in the Law of God,the God(s)and the God(s). NIV Luke 24:44. Remember 'types' Law of MOSES, Prophets (Ezra), Psalms (David). Why are these names attributed to what God wrote?

Paul Hoffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Hoffer said...

(I am reposting a corrected version of my last comment because it contained a sentence that was uncharitable)

Hello Rhology. I apologize about not answering all of the questions you asked me. You asked: "How does it follow that the ch is therefore superior in authority to the Scr or that the ch is infallible?"

A. Let's be clear on a couple of things. First, no Catholic would claim that the Church is superior in authority to Scripture. Both derive their authority from God. We do not say that the Scriptures depend upon the Church for its authority. The Catholic Church teaches that Scripture was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus, is free from error.

However, the authority of Scripture is not evident in and of itself. Scripture is authoritative because the Church appeals to it as its highest authority. As Father Knox states, "But it is true to say that we should not be conscious of this authority if the Church did not assure us of its existence. In the order of our knowledge, belief in the Church is antecedent to belief in Scripture, and is the condition of it. Historical criticism assures us, indeed, that the books of the New Testament are veracious in their main outline, but only revelation could make us confident in the belief that they have God as their author. It is the Church that assures us, for example, that the epistle of St. Jude has a higher authority than that of the epistle attributed to St. Barnabas; it is the Church, further, that assures us that St. Jude wrote under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

Likewise, as pointed out by Father Searle in his book that Carrie critiqued here, it would have been possible for God to have given us a revelation in Scripture so completely and so unmistakably that the teaching office of the Church would have been unnecessary—the Church would have been able to confine herself to asserting the authenticity and veracity of Scripture without further comment.

However, we know that God did not do that as amply shown by the existence of your own blog. The fact that folks like yourselves, Professor White and Turretinfan all feel it necessary to write and explain doctrines and distinctives you believe are found in Scriptures that others do not demonstrates to me as clearly as any Magisterial pronouncement that God did not reveal the Scriptures in the way you suggest.

Instead, we Catholics believe that Christ invested the primary authority to teach what the Scriptures mean in His Church and gave that Church the final authority to decide what the Scriptures mean when folks of good will who all believe in the veracity of Scripture do dispute over their meaning. In contrast to what you may think of the doctrine of infallibility, Catholics do not believe that infallibility means that the Church will not err in everything it does; it merely means that God will not allow His Church to err when it authoritatively interprets His Word or applies it to matters of faith and morals. God does not inspire the Church like He did the writers of the Scriptures, rather we believe that God guides the Church. Again Father Knox, "The difference between inspiration and guidance is the difference between a schoolmaster who should control the hand of a pupil while he wrote, and that of a schoolmaster who should stand by, ready to intervene if he saw him about to go wrong."

I hope that helps answers your questions. God bless!

Rhology said...

Hi EBW,

Welcome to the blogosphere!
Are you familiar with the standard explanation of the inspiration of Scripture?
2 Pet 1:21 - "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit". Men actually put pen to paper, but the Holy Spirit was carrying them along and ensuring their words would be w/o error and would have unusual insight into God and His redemptive history and works, etc. So Jesus, being God, attributes the men to the books, when He could just as easily attribute the books to God, and indeed Jesus did also do just that:
Matt 22:31 - But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God...? Then He goes on to quote Scripture.



Paul:
Let me react to what you said:
no Catholic would claim that the Church is superior in authority to Scripture

1) I assume you mean that no educated RC who agrees with RC official dogma, since I've met numerous RCs in real life who care nary a whit for what the Vatican says or what Catholic Answers says. So, that's just a friendly reminder to be careful about how you say stuff like that. I've had to learn it too! :-)
2) Functionally, in practice, however, I do not agree. The Scr says what RCC says it says in the conservative RC model, and that puts the RCC above the Scr. "The RCC is the Mother of the Bible", and all that.


the authority of Scripture is not evident in and of itself.

Hopefully you will say that about the church as well!
And this is not Jesus' view of the Scr at all.


Scripture is authoritative because the Church appeals to it as its highest authority.

How do this statement and the statement "The RCC is the Mother of the Bible" harmonise?


But it is true to say that we should not be conscious of this authority if the Church did not assure us of its existence.

And what is it about the Church that makes its authority "evident in and of itself", as you said?


It is the Church that assures us, for example, that the epistle of St. Jude has a higher authority than that of the epistle attributed to St. Barnabas

I am far more comfortable attributing that job to the Holy Spirit.


it would have been possible for God to have given us a revelation in Scripture so completely and so unmistakably that the teaching office of the Church would have been unnecessary

Which He did. The teaching office of the church is completely superfluous anyway, in theory and even moreso in practice given that it virtually never makes pronouncements that can be identified as infallible.


we know that God did not do that as amply shown by the existence of your own blog

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible? (NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book II, §3)


In contrast to what you may think of the doctrine of infallibility, Catholics do not believe that infallibility means that the Church will not err in everything it does

Yes, I know that.
However, this distinction is hamstrung by the paucity of Magisterial statements that can be identified as infallible, much less infallibly identified as infallible. You don't even have a completed canon of Scr, much less a canon of your infallible teachings, much less even than that an infallible canon of your infallible teachings.


Thanks for your time!
Peace,
Rhology

EBW said...

Rhology, Thanks for your response. I am familiar with the standard explanation. I posted the original question just to get some opinions about why Jesus, as the Son-Incarnate did not put pen to paper? Any thoughts on why? Also, any thoughts on the Inspiration of the last portion of Mark 16 ?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology: I enjoyed the quote from St. Hilary. However, you have to read that quote in the context of everything he wrote. Here are two more for you from the same book:

"But I trust that the Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world's vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. For great is the force of truth; not only is it its own sufficient witness, but the more it is assailed the more evident it becomes; the daily shocks which it receives only increase its inherent stability. It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss. This is a truth which the passionate zeal of rival heresies brings into the clearest prominence. The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all. Each heresy wields against its adversary some weapon already shattered, in another instance, by the Church's condemnation. There is no point of union between them, and the outcome of their internecine struggles is the confirmation of the faith."

On the Trinity. Book 7, Chapter 4

"The words in which we speak of the things of God must be used in no mere human and worldly sense, nor must the perverseness of an alien and impious interpretation be extorted from the soundness of heavenly words by any violent and headstrong preaching. Let us read what is written, let us understand what we read, and then fulfil the demands of a perfect faith. For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ's nature within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, whilst together with Him our own selves are in God."

On the Trinity Bk 8, Chapter 14.

God bless!

Rhology said...

EBW,
B/c He didn't want to. :-) John 14-16 has a lot of insight into that as well.

Paul,

Thanks for those citations. I didn't see anything in there that warrants the "However" of "However, you must read it in context".

EBW said...

Rhology,
I am reading John 14-16 slowly to find those insights. Thanks

The Dude said...

Don't mean to interrupt the flow between Rhology,Paul,EBW but Matt wrote:
"So, if this is the case, how can Banez square his position with Trent, which says that the will is involved because it can resist grace. Well, more research is needed, but, as far as I have seen thus far, Banez says that God's grace, while intrinsically efficacious and infallible in its effect, works with/upon human beings in a way suitable to them."

Matt, I'm guessing you've read Predestination by Garrigou-Lagrange? IIRC does he not mention that the Thomist view of intrinsically efficacious grace holds that the will *could* and does have the power to resist it, but it infallibly will not and infallibly will freely consent (hence it is intrinsically efficacious and consonant with Thomas' view of predilection) and thus still falls within parameters of Trent? I believe he uses the example of a seated man retaining real power to rise, distinguishing between power to resist and actual resistance. I am not sure if that is what you might have been getting at with your second sentence, or maybe I'm misremembering what GL said and you disagree and think there's a better synthesis from what you've read of the Thomists/Dominicans.

Interestingly, canon 4 of the sixth session was prepared by Soto, a Thomist, fwiw.

Carrie said...

no Catholic would claim that the Church is superior in authority to Scripture

Well, maybe some would:

"In regard to these truth [faith and morals] the authority of Tradition and of the Bible is equal...Nevertheless, as we shall see later, the Church is superior to the Bible in the sense that she is the Living Voice of Christ, and therefore the sole infallible interpreter of the inspired Word, whenever an authoritative interpretation is required."

-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 2) with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, I didn't know you replied to one of my previous comments until I saw a commentary on RDP's blog about it. See, http://the-supplement.blogspot.com/2009/01/retort-that-wasn.html [Thanks RDP!]

I don't have much to add RDP's article except the following. In our legal system here in America, we consider the United States Constitution to be our highest legal authority. Our whole system of justice is premised on that authority. No law or court decision can contradict it. But the Constitution does not interpret itself as it does not define the words that are found there. For example, you will not find a definition for "due process" in the Fifth Amendment.

However, courts do interpret what "due process" means. The highest interpretative authority in this country is the United States Supreme Court. When there is a dispute over the meaning of the words in the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the final authority that interprets what those words mean. Citizens of this country are bound to follow the Constitution, but we are bound to follow it in accordance with the interpretations given it by the Supreme Court. Hence the Constitution is the supreme legal authority but the Supreme Court is the supreme interpreter of that authority. The Constitution requires that we are guaranteed the right to "due process" of law, but it is the Supreme Court that decides how much process we are due.

Likewise, it is with the Word of God and the Church. The Word of God is the Church's highest authority it appeals to in determining doctrine, but it is the Church that is the highest authoritative interpreter of what the words of the Bible mean when a situation arises that such is needed.

To carry this point a bit further without stretching it too much because like all analogies it is not perfect, it is entirely possible that a legal system could be devised where the courts do not have interpretative authority. France for example was governed by a set of laws called the Napoleanic Code (they still may for all I know). It defined the meaning of its words so that the courts merely functioned to enforce the Code. If a situation arose where the Code could not be applied, the legislature merely wrote up a new law to cover it.

God could have written the Bible to function as His own Napoleanic Code if He had wanted to. Instead, He wrote a Bible that serves likes a constitution and established a Church that functions as its final interpreter.

[BTW, if you want to know where Tradition fits in, that would be analogous to the Common Law which was a body of decisions that provided precedents for the Court to use to interpret the Constitution.]

In short, your citation does not contradict the points I raised nor does my view of the authority of Scriptures and the authority of the Church differ from what Pope Pius XII approved.

God Bless!

Carrie said...

In short, your citation does not contradict the points I raised nor does my view of the authority of Scriptures and the authority of the Church differ from what Pope Pius XII approved.

I wasn't trying to contradict your points, just giving a quote that does admit a superiority of the church over the bible.

Logically, if the bible needs an interpreter to function and to even be known as divine (which is a point you make alot here), then that interpreter/validator is superior. Now, I will give you that you stated superior in authority and that is not as clear cut.

Instead, He wrote a Bible that serves likes a constitution and established a Church that functions as its final interpreter.


Wrong. The scriptures are active, a constitution is not.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, you said: "Wrong. The scriptures are active, a constitution is not."

Ok, I will bite...how is Scripture in and of itself active if no one reads it or interprets it?

Rhology said...

If no one reads it? That's the wrong question.
And as for how it's living and active, I'd ask the author of Hebrews.

Paul Hoffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology, Thank you for answering my question to Carrie. However, I must point out that your answer in truth did not actually answer my question. Your answer only led to innumerable more questions.

To start. Why is my question the wrong question? Do the Scriptures proclaim themselves. If someone never opens the Bible or for that matter never receives the opportunity to read the Scriptures, how does the Bible in and of itself speak to that person?

You said, "And as for how it's living and active, I'd ask the author of Hebrews."

Ok. I pick up a Bible, open it to Hebrews and ask it a question, will it answer me? Nope. I must read it. Now, hopefully I am one of approximately 78% of the world's population that can read and hopefully the Bible is accurately translated into a language I understand. Now if I knew nothing of Christianity or the teachings of the Church about this book, how could I understand it? I submit that the Bible in and of itself does not speak unless it is given voice through the Church that preaches it.

You wrote about "The Letter to the Hebrews." Ok. I pick it up and look at it. Where does it say that it divinely inspired or that the people to whom it was written were to keep the letter in perpetuity so it could be incorporated into a group of books a couple of hundred of years later? Heck, the darn thing isn't even signed. Did St. Paul write it? (Turretinfan doesn't think so and we all know what an authoritative character he is.) Am I allowed to believe that St. Paul wrote it like folks almost unanimously did up to the Reformation? Or did Barnabas, John Mark, or Luke write it? Does it even matter?

I begin to read it and at Heb. 1:1I see, "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son." Now if this is the only book of the Bible I read, where do I find the words that Jesus spoke? Or was this book to be kept in a time capsule until the rest of the canon of the NT was written. And what do you think about the sayings of Jesus that are not found in the Gospel? I mean we find in Acts St. Paul quoting something Jesus said that is not found in the four Gospels. And since Luke wrote one of them, do you think he forgot to put it the first part? Likewise, if one were to look at the writings of several of the early Church fathers, we will find a number of quotations of the Jesus that are not found anywhere in the Gospels. Shouldn't those be considered too?

At Heb. 2:1, one finds, "Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have HEARD lest we drift away from it." Who spoke what the audience had heard? The Letter to the Hebrews?

At Heb. 4:17, we find the phrase I presume you are referencing-good enough-but now having read this, please explain to me who the the "some one" is that is being referenced at Heb. 5:12: "[Y]ou need some one to teach you again the first principles of God's words."

Well wait a second! If the Bible is self-sufficient,
why do I need someone to teach me principles? Why doesn't the writer of Hebrews just list them here and be done with it or at the very least direct the audience to the passages of the Bible he thinks enunciate those principals?

Later, we find at Heb. 13:7, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God; consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith." Now wait another second, didn't you tell me (rather cavilierly) to read Hebrews to find out how the Bible is active and living? And here we find that there are leaders speaking the Word of God. Is this what you meant? Who are theses leaders? Bishops, priests, deacons? The Westminster Confession of Faith? You?

Or is "leaders" an euphemism for the Bible? If so, why is the writer also talking about the Word of God in the same sentence? If the writer is not talking about the living and active Word of God, why am I being called upon to consider these leaders' lives and to imitate their faith if the Bible is sufficient in and of itself? Why isn't the author of Hebrews telling me to just go and read my Bible instead? Or does he not think that the Bible alone is active and living enough?

Do you see my point? It would appear that the Bible (Word of God) is living and active only because people preach it and people follow the precepts of what is being preached. And people can only follow those precepts when they understand them which means that someone has to authoritatively interpret those words so there is some uniformity of understanding and then go and preach those words.

And would you agree with me that the writer of Hebrews wrote this epistle to a specific audience? And who is that audience? The Church. Who was the Word of God preached to? The Church. Who are the leaders leading? The Church.
Catholics do not reduce the Word of God to just a book. We live what it teaches in a community of believers. And we begin to learn what it teaches through our leaders. There is nothing "sola" whatsoever about it.

Maybe you should want me to read a different book of the Bible?

BTW, if you and I disagree on what the passages I just referenced in Hebrews, is the Bible going to step in and tell us which of us is right? If so, how is the Bible going to enforce its arbital decision and bind us to follow it? How is its authority enforced?

God bless!

Constantine said...

PaulHoffer,

Sorry for the delay.

You discredit Wills and Kung based on your view of orthodoxy but neither man has been excommunicated by the church. Isn’t that odd? And you affirm Sippo, who has no theological training because you like his “facts.” I still find that interesting.

I’m glad to hear that Bible study is going on in Catholic schools. I will tell you in the 12 years that I was in Catholic schools and based on my first hand experience with 3 generations of my family that did the same, there was never a Bible in any school or church at any time. As a church musician I attended 4-5 Masses every week and was in several sacristies as well as the main sanctuary and never saw a Bible. And since I grew up in a cathedral parish, if the Catholic Church does indeed include the Bible, this was a long-standing oversight by no less than five bishops of the church.

You are right, the church certainly is the Body of Christ, but you err in your assumption that the “church” is the Roman Catholic Church. It is very clear from the writings of the OT (Deut. 7:6-7, 10:15, Jeremiah 1:5, Ex. 33:19), the Gospels (Matt. 11:27, Mark 13:20, John 17:6), the writings of the Apostles (Ephesians 1, 1 Peter 1, Romans 4:16, 8:29-30) that the church is that body of believers chosen by Christ before the foundations of the earth. They are not members of any particular group. Jesus Himself rebuked the Apostle John for making that mistake(Mark 9:38-39). So the church cannot be the “pen” with which God writes on our hearts, because the true church was created before time and the writing was done before any created matter.

The context of Ephesians (you cite 1:22-23, 3:10) is the eternal, finished work of Christ. Paul writes this letter to the “faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1) and he talks exclusively in the past tense about what Jesus had already done – “who has blessed us”, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world”, “In love he predestined us”, “he adopted us”, “we have redemption”, etc. etc. So when we get to vss. 22-23, we have to see the “church” in that context. It is not some earthly institution but it is the congregation of the faithful, established by Christ before time began. And since Rome came in to existence after that, the “church” cannot be any earthly organization. And as God was head of His church before Christ’s birth, He continues to as head of the church in the presence of His Son, who is one with Him in being. To interpret the “church” of Ephesians 1 as an earthly institution it to miss the point, entirely. Likewise the meaning of Eph. 3:10 is consistent with that when you read the rest of the sentence which is vs. 11: “ according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ’s church is His Body because of His ontological nature. It contains only true believers and was established that way before time. I hope that helps with Ephesians. (I will resist asking, as you did, “Now who knows the Bible?”)

Why do churches need Bibles if God has already written His law on their hearts?

It is a great question and has a profound answer: because God commanded us to meditate on His word, “day and night” (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2). He further commanded us to “carefully follow the words of the Law, which are written in this book…” (Dt. 28:58) in order to avoid His wrath and to enjoy His provision (Dt. 30:9-10, 1 Kings 2:3)); to keep from following false doctrines (Jos. 23:6); to be sure we don’t add to His words (Proverbs 30:6, 1 Corinthians 4:6,) to keep from following earthly traditions (Mark 7:8); to gain more insight (Psalm 119:99); to keep from being “mugged” by “deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition…rather than on Christ”. (Col 2:8) So churches need Bibles in order to fulfill the commands of God and to help man “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You wrote: Are we to assume that churches that have bibles in their pews consist of people that God did not write the law into their hearts?

Yes. Using your definition of “church” that is exactly right. There are, right now and at all times, unbelievers sitting in Catholic and Christian churches which have Bibles that are not believers. Those unbelievers are not part of the true Body of Christ.


Until next time, Peace.

Matt said...

Constantine,

Your arguments would have more weight if you did not continue to defend Kung and Wills. Anyway, does this help at all?

"In 1979, Küng's license to teach Catholic theology was revoked by Pope John Paul II, a decision in which Ratzinger played a role as a member of the German bishops' conference. In the years since, Küng has been a leading critic of both many of the doctrinal positions espoused by Ratzinger, and the investigatory procedures by which they are enforced."

http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/update/bn092605.htm

Excommunications are rare these days. Saying that someone is an authoritative Catholic theologian because they have not been excommunicated is really absurd.

Here is the report from a recent synod of bishops:

Devotion to the word of God must lead Catholics to prayer, concrete acts of charity, unity with other Christians and dialogue with all people of good will, said the world Synod of Bishops.

In their final message to the world's Catholics, the 253 members of the synod said each Catholic should have a copy of the Bible, read it and pray with it regularly.

"Every home should have its own Bible and safeguard it in a visible and dignified way, to read it and to pray with it," said the synod's message, released Oct. 24.

And, like Jesus who came to proclaim hope and salvation, "the Christian has the mission to announce this divine word of hope by sharing with the poor and the suffering, through the witness of faith in the kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, and love and peace," the synod said.

"Authentic hearing is obeying and acting. It means making justice and love blossom in life," the message said.

It is not enough to explain the word of God to others, the bishops said, but people must let others see and experience the goodness of God through the good that they do.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and principal drafter of the message, told reporters that "if the word of God is love, then one who has read and prayed over the word must incarnate love. It must lead to communion, solidarity and dialogue."

Nearing the end of a synod that featured for the first time a major address by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the bishops also insisted that "veneration and love for the word of God" is "the principle and source of a first and real unity" that Catholics share with other Christians.

"This bond must always be reinforced" through joint work on biblical translations, the distribution of Bibles, shared prayer, dialogue and study about differing approaches to interpretation and "the common witness of the word of God in a secularized world," the message said.

Constantine said...

Hi Matt,

Well I hope my arguments (not meant in a contentious sense at all) hold water because the reflect God’s Word, not my defense of any human. I don’t know that I said Wills and Kung were “authoritative Catholic theologians” (whatever that means) but I think we would both have to agree that they are both published scholars and Catholic. Both were educated in Catholic universities and at least one was a long time professor at a Catholic University. I don’t think the fact that they are out of favor disqualifies their scholarship. We often learn more from disagreement than agreement.

Thanks for the bit about the synod of bishops. And I am glad to know that the Bible is back in favor in Catholic circles. But since the Catechism says, “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted SOLELY (my emphasis) to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him. “ what is the point of reading it? If an individual can’t interpret what he reads why read it? Wouldn’t it be more in line with the Catechism to read a Magisterial commentary on the Bible? At least then you could have some reasonable assurance that it was the right interpretation. I’m curious what you think.

You wrote: “Devotion to the word of God must lead Catholics to prayer, concrete acts of charity, unity with other Christians and dialogue with all people of good will, said the world Synod of Bishops.”

See, I think we have a good example here of the different views of the Bible. Views that, interestingly, are opposites. The Christian would say that it is not man’s devotion to the Word of God that leads to prayer, etc but rather the other way around. It is God’s Word that leads man to devotion and good works. Consider “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.” (Jeremiah 24:7) or “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27). And the Apostle Paul: “…“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:9). Good works come later, as Paul says: “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10) So you are right that we show the world through our good works, but those are not of ourselves, “lest any man should boast”.

You see this again in the phrase, "This bond must always be reinforced" (by human effort – my addition). That seems to contradict the clear teaching of God in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
God’s word accomplishes God’s purposes without any reinforcement from man.

Thanks for the note, Matt. I hope you will join your fellow Catholics and continue to read God’s Word. It is His Power and it will avail much for you.

Peace.

Matt said...

I agree that the claims of Kung and Wills must be evaluated on their merits, but you seemed to be using their identity as "Catholic scholars" to advance particular claims (at least that was my perception...I apologize if I was mistaken). Given their proven track-record of denying clear teachings of the Church (Kung denies infallibility, he supports women's ordination; the list for Wills could go on and on), at the very least it makes this sort of use of them a bit shaky. But, as you said, it really doesn't matter. What matters is the evidence and their conformity to reason in matters accessible to it and to the Scripture in matters pertaining thereto.

(By the way, I have agreed before that there was a campaign against Modernism in the early 20th century. This had little to do with the access of laity to Scripture and more to do with the practices of "Higher Criticism" in the writings of Catholic scholars, but there were different sorts of limitations on vernacular and lay readings of Scripture after the Reformation which lasted to some degree into the 20th century and, even in some ways, to Vatican II.)

As for the arguments in the second half of your post, I can only say that they are based on a really clear misreading of the text. "Devotion to the word of God" is precisely referring TO the reading and meditation upon Scripture. As you said, this sort of activity, if guided by the Holy Spirit, can lead to a changed attitude towards our neighbor (works of charity) and so on. So I think there is no disagreement here.

As for your comment about the uselessness of reading Scripture if there is an authoritative Magisterium, you should expand your survey of Magisterial statements about Scripture. If you look in Gaudium et Spes or Dei Verbum (I put some relevant quotations in the combox on "Hi Carrie"), you will see a very clear resolution of this apparent paradox.

First of all, I don't personally read Scripture to come up with a personal theology. I primarily read Scripture to meditate upon the glory and goodness of God and his relationship with his people throughout the covenants and especially through the work of Christ. But, of course, I do evaluate my beliefs as I am reading Scripture since I believe that Scripture is the primary and materially sufficient source of all authentic Revelation (very unclear way of putting that in one sentence!) But when I do that, I don't believe that I have some kind of special authority to propose that "authentically" for all Christians. Now, as a scholar, I can be in dialogue with the community of faith as it reflects more deeply on its teachings (again, see Gaudium et Spes), I can even make a serious contribution to how the Church proposes its teachings to the faithful (as "private" readers of Scripture have done in the past), but I don't have that kind of authority. That authority is entrusted, in my view as a Catholic, to the shepherds of the faithful in communion with the See of Peter.

Now...I don't see why that conviction would in any way impede me from reading Scripture, either for the devotional purposes I describe above or even for scholarly/doctrinal reasons. Indeed, I really just don't see how your conclusion would follow.