Thursday, July 16, 2009

Radio Replies First Volume - "Bible Only" a false principle

565. The Gospel of Christ is simplicity itself.

In one way it is. It tells us clearly that Christ established a definite Church which He commissioned to teach all nations. It is very simple from this point of view, for men have but to accept the Catholic Church, and be taught by that Church.

But the Gospel is not simplicity itself in the way you intend. Men have devoted their lives to the study of the Gospels, preparing themselves for the task by profound research in the Hebrew, Syrian, Arabic, Greek, and Latin languages. And even then, many passages are most difficult to understand.

566. But at least the plan of salvation can be understood by the simplest person. We Protestants even tell our children to read their Bibles in order to discern it.

According to the findings of your simple readers there must be hundreds of conflicting plans of salvation, all revealed by the one Christ! As for the capacity of your children, you might as well give them the article in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica on Spectroscopic Analysis as the subject matter of their studies. But the Bible itself is against your theory. Thus St. Peter says that in Scripture there are certain things "hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Pet 3:16. To his mind the private interpretation of Scripture can be most dangerous.

567. God has given us brains to think for ourselves. We do not need Help to understand Scripture.

God had given men brains before He came to teach them Himself, and He came to teach them precisely because their brains could not succeed in finding out the things which were to their peace. If you say that His revealed teachings in the Scriptures together with our brains are enough, those very revealed teachings tell you that they are not. Even in the Old Law God said, "The lips of the Priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth." Mal 2:7. In the New Law Christ sent His Church to teach men, transferring to His Church that authority of God once possessed by the Priests of the Old Law. In the New Testament itself we find Philip the Deacon saying to the Ethiopian, who was reading the Scriptures, "Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?" and the Ethiopian replying, "And how can I unless some man show me?" Acts 8:30. St. Peter, too, explicitly refutes your ideas. "No prophecy of Scripture," he writes, "is of any private interpretation." 2 Pet 1:20.

568. St. Peter means that the Prophets did not prophesy by their own will, but by the Holy Spirit. He does not refer to interpretation by us.

Your own Protestant Bishop Ellicott says of these verses, "The words private interpretation might seem to mean that the sacred writers did not get their prophecies by private interpretation, but by divine inspiration. But this is certainly not the meaning. The real meaning is that the reader must not presume to interpret privately that which is far more than ordinary human thought."

569. Any man who can think has the moral right to interpret anything.

He has not. The very laws of the state are not subject to the interpretation of each and every citizen. There is such a thing as thinking erroneously. In difficulties of civil law a man consults a lawyer who knows legal practice and parallel statutes. Who gives you the right to take greater liberties with divine legislation? A man who knows nothing of Hebrew or Greek, and is quite untrained in Scriptural exegesis, would misapprehend the sense of Scripture in hundreds of places.

570. Did not Christ promise that He would send the Holy Spirit to teach us all truth?

He did not promise that the Holy Spirit would teach each individual separately. If every individual were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all who read Scripture sincerely should come to the same conclusion. But they do not. The frightful chaos as to the meaning of Scripture is proof positive that the Holy Spirit has not chosen this way of leading men to the truth. It is blasphemy to say that the Holy Spirit does not know His own mind, and that He deliberately leads men into contradictory notions. Christ promised to preserve His Church as a Church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the only Church which shows signs of having been preserved is the consistent Catholic Church. The individual is guided by the Holy Spirit to a certain extent in the ways of holiness, but in the knowledge of revealed truth he is to be guided by the Catholic Church which Christ sent to teach all nations.

571. I don't see the need of learning to understand a simple story for simple people.

The Bible is not a simple story for simple people. We live thousands of years after the Bible was written, and our language and customs are very different now. No book written at one age is easy for another age. The study of antiquities demands a knowledge of primitive languages of which few are capable, and for which still fewer have the time. Anyway God never intended the Bible to be the sole guide to religion for all time. Christ taught orally and with authority, and He sent His Church to teach in the same way and with the same authority.

572. Hoiv does it help to know Hebrew or Greek?

Because one must know what the original words meant in the language in which Scripture was written. A knowledge of Hebrew and Greek soon shows that the translators do not always find an English word to express the exact sense of the original. God inspired the thoughts of the original writers, not the work of the translators. And if you read a sense into Scripture which God did not intend at all, you no longer have God's Word.

573. Christ chose poor fishermen, not learned men.

He trained them personally, and infused into their minds an exact knowledge of His doctrine. We cannot claim to have received a similar revelation, that we should rank ourselves with them.

574. Then Catholics have to believe just what the Priest likes to tell them?

The Priest cannot tell the people just what he likes. He is obliged to teach just what Christ taught, and which has been taught him in the Name of Christ by the infallible Catholic Church.

575. Is your Church afraid that people will form opinions for themselves?

If we consider some of the opinions people have formed for themselves from their private reading of Scripture there is need to be afraid. Christ's method was to establish a teaching Church. Protestants have a peculiar method of their own, but you cannot blame the Catholic Church for not using the Protestant method, a method which has led to nothing but uncertainty and widespread unbelief.

576. Admitting the necessity of guidance, are not our Protestant ministers as capable as Catholic Priests in telling us what Scripture means?

They might be, if Priests had not an infallible Catholic Church to guide them. The Catholic Church rejoices in the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the Priest has the help of her defined doctrines and the constant Catholic tradition as a safeguard. But your Protestant ministers do not claim to be spokesmen of an infallible Church. On their own principles they have to admit that they are possibly wrong. And as a matter of fact, where all Priests are agreed in the essential teachings of Scripture, your ministers come to all kinds of contradictory conclusions. The unity of teaching among Catholic Priests is a greater indication of capability than the chaos which prevails outside the Catholic Church. But the capability of Catholic Priests has little to do with relative personal attainments. It is derived from the authority of the infallible Catholic Church.

577. You speak of the authority of the Church and the weight of tradition. But I have been taught that Scripture is the only rule of faith.

You have been taught wrongly. Scripture itself denies that it is the only rule of faith. The last verse of St. John's Gospel tells us that not all concerning Our Lord's work is contained in Scripture. St. Paul tells us over and over again that much of Christian teaching is to be found in tradition. One who clings to the reading of the Bible only might be able to cite hundreds of texts yet not know Christian doctrine by any means. In fact, the adoption of the Bible only has led to as many opinions as there are men amongst non-Catholics. Finally, Scripture tells us most clearly that the Catholic Church is the rule of faith, that Church which Christ sent to teach all nations and which He commanded men to hear and obey. He who believes in Scripture as his only guide ends by believing in his own mistaken interpretations of the Bible, and that means that he ends by believing in himself.

578. Is not the Church built on the knowledge it gets from the Bible?

No. The Catholic Church was built by Christ and upon Christ before a line of the New Testament was written. She received her doctrine immediately from the lips of Christ, and is safeguarded from error in her teaching by the Holy Spirit. Between 40 and 80 years after her foundation, some of her members wrote the Books of the New Testament. If the Gospels were the only rule of faith, then before they were written there could have been no Christian rule of faith at all!

579. Christ gave us the command to search the Scriptures. Jn 5:39.

That was a retort, not a command, and you cannot turn a particular rebuke into a universal law. Were it a universal law, it would have been impossible of fulfillment by the vast majority during the fourteen centuries prior to the invention of the printing press! But take the context. The Jews, who boasted of their fidelity to the Mosaic Law, would not believe in Christ. He challenged them: "(You) search the Scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me." The Catholic Church could say in the same way to Protestants: "You are ever speaking of searching the Scriptures as opposed to my methods, and think in them to have everlasting life independently of me; yet the same are they that give testimony of me."

580. Do we not read that the early Christians searched the Scriptures daily? Acts 17:11.

They first received the true doctrine from the teaching Church, and then merely checked it in the Scriptures. That is the right procedure, and Catholics today do the same. But your way is not first to be taught by the Church, and then verify, but to try to make out your own religion from the Bible with an untrained mind and by that private interpretation which Scripture itself forbids.

581. Well, I am afraid of nothing as long as I have the pure Word of God to fall back upon.

Without the Catholic Church you cannot prove it to be the pure Word of God. Nor need anyone be afraid of the pure Word of God. What we must fear is the Word of God adulterated by people who read into it whatever they like.

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