The Catholic Church & The Scriptures
by Lawrence Farlow
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I received the following from a practicing Catholic after I questioned some of the (many) non-scriptural doctrines of the Catholic Church. It’s a very good, concise statement on Catholic doctrine regarding the scriptures giving insight into how so many non-scriptural teaching are justified. My responses to it are in bold.
Did the Holy Spirit stop his working after the last page of the "Bible" was put together?
No but He did stop inspiring scripture when the cannon was closed with Revelation. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” Revelation 22:18
Do you know that the New Testament was not, any more than the Old, all written at one time, or all by one man
Yes, I did, does that make it any less inspired? In truth, the fact that the Bible was written over many years by many different human instruments of the Holy Spirit confirms it’s authenticity and divine inspiration since it tells a seamless story which never contradicts itself despite the passage of time and difference of author.
At least 40 years passed away between the writing of the first and the writing of the last of its books
Christ himself never, as far as we know, wrote a line of Scripture
Oh really? Is not the Holy Spirit part and parcel of Christ as one of the Trinity? If you mean he didn’t pick up pen and write out any of the Bible during the 3 years of His earthly ministry, correct. However, John 1:1 assures us that Christ IS the Word.
Certainly none has been preserved. He never told his Apostles to write anything. He told them to “go and teach all nations”, “preach the Gospel to everyone”, “the one who hears you, hears me”. In other words, he told them to do exactly what he had done himself – that is, deliver the word of God to the people by the living voice – convince, persuade, instruct, convert them by addressing themselves face to face to living men and women, not entrust their message to a dead book
Scripture is clear that God’s Word is alive, not dead: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12)
Yet another direct contradiction of scripture taught by the Catholic church – that God’s Word is a ‘dead book’.
which might be destroyed or misunderstood and misinterpreted and corrupted. He gave them a safer and more natural way – presenting the truth to them by word of mouth,
So its LESS likely that a chain of conversations will be corrupted than the written word??? As far as destroyed, God managed to see that the Old Testament survived intact for thousands of years until the birth of Christ, can He not do the same with the entire Bible?
training others to do the same after they themselves were gone, and so by a living tradition preserving and handing down the word of God as they had received it, to all generations
The church is still called to do that, From Genesis to Revelation, hand down God’s Word, intact with no changes, to all generations.
This was the method the Apostles adopted. Nothing was written till nearly twenty years after the death of Christ. Do you see what follows? The Church and the Faith existed before the Bible
I think you mean the church and the faith existed before the New Testament or are you claiming that the Old Testament was also created by the Catholic Church?
That seems a simple fact which nobody can deny. Thousands of people became Christians through the work of the Apostles and missionaries of Christ in various lands.
No, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Now that conviction comes through the Word “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”
They believed the whole truth of God as we believe it now. They became saints and died for their faith before ever they saw read a single sentence of our New Testament. (Most could probably not read anyway.)
According to you (and the Catholic Church) they didn’t HAVE the whole truth of God so how could they believe the whole truth of God? If scripture is a work in process, still being developed by the Catholic Church then we even yet don’t have the whole truth of God.
How, then, did they become Christians?
There’s only one way “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Yet despite this clear teaching, the Catholic church still teaches that salvation comes by faith + works + membership in the church+ the ingestion of the sacraments.
In the same way that people are converted today, by hearing the truth from the lips of Christians and seeing that truth lived out in their lives.
Which truth would that be, the one in Romans above or the faith + works + being a Catholic+sacraments version?
When the Apostles set out, how did they intend to evangelize? By distributing copies of the New Testament? Such a thing did not exist, and, we may safely say, was not even thought of
That’s what the apostolic gifts such as healing and raising men from the dead were for, to give weight and meaning to their message. We now DO have the New Testament, complete and finished and so no longer need these signs and wonders.
Why did Our Lord promise them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and command them to be “witnesses”
The answer to that can be found in these very scriptures you subordinate to other things
Why did the Spirit come down upon the Twelve and endow them with the power of speaking in various languages? Only so that they might be able to “preach the Gospel to all people”.
The books of the New Testament were called forth by special circumstances that arose
No, they were called forth by the Holy Spirit. “All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” II Timothy 3:16
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” II Peter 1:20
No-one had the idea of composing works that would be collected and put in one volume to make the Christian Holy Book
No one except God that is
We know that many letters must have been lost. We can see from St. Paul’s letters that nothing could replace the authoritative teacher: “How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach unless they are sent? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”
The original language here says ‘by the word of God’, not Christ, encompassing all of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
The fact is that no religion
‘religion’ is man-made, Christianity is God made
has ever been effectually spread except by word of mouth, and certainly neither the Apostles nor the Jews would have understood the spread of the faith by means of a written word.
Are you serious??? What about the OT that the Jews had used generation by generation to maintain and share their faith? In fact, the scrolls of the law were lost for a time after the split of the kingdom and the people forgot God as a result. It wasn’t until the scrolls were found and King Josiah had them read to the people that they knew where they’d been off track. Remember too whenever Jesus was in the Temple he read from the scriptures, as was the customary and regular practice of the Jews. They were instructed by God to write them on their hearts, their foreheads and the doorposts of their houses. Sounds like God takes His written word VERY seriously.
The first work of the Apostles was to deliver in living words a personal testimony to the facts of the Gospel – the Ministry, the Death, and the Resurrection of Our Lord. It was only in the course of time and under the influence of circumstances
The influence of the Holy Spirit, not ‘circumstances’!
that they committed their testimony, or any part of it, to writing. Their special duty was to preach.
Will you then say that we are belittling and despising God’s word? No, not at all. We must simply put it in the place God intended it to be
Yes, I know, but the place the Catholic Church thinks it belongs is subordinate to the opinions of fallible men with robes and miters. They used to be called the Magesterium in Martin Luther’s day.
– the fruit of the Church’s preaching.
The scriptures are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the fruit of the church.
It is easy to see how the Gospels came to be. As long as the Apostles were still living, there was no necessity for written records of the words and actions of Our Lord. But then it was good that there was some correct and reliable account of the work of Christ should be left. This was all the more necessary because there were being spread abroad incorrect and unfaithful Gospels. Look at Luke 1:1, where he says he considers it right to set down in writing reliable information from eyewitnesses.
But remember that all the Gospels are incomplete and fragmentary
Oh really? According to what source? Scripture assures us that its record is complete. For how can we be ‘thoroughly equipped’ for ‘EVERY good work’ if it’s not?
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:16-17
Is it a complete account of everything that ever happened during Biblical times? No, but its complete in that nothing is left out that the church or the individual needs to know to find salvation, work out that salvation or establish doctrine.
,giving us certainly the most important things to know about our Saviour’s life on earth, but still not telling us all we might know. For much, Christians have always depended on the teaching of the Church. Without the Church we might well have not understood that Jesus Christ is both perfectly God and perfectly human, for the Bible alone will not teach us these things
Now that’s an out and out falsehood! Christ tells us numerous times that he is God in the flesh. “I and the Father are one” “ Before Abraham was, I AM.” etc.
Besides, where does ‘the church’ get that information if not from the scriptures?
If we look at the other writings of the New Testament, we see that they were called into existence at various times to meet pressing needs and circumstances. Most were addressed to particular individuals and communities in various places as problems arose in those communities. So we find Paul writing to his converts in Thessalonica, or Ephesus, or Corinth, or Philippi. For what reason? Either in answer to communications sent to him from them, or because he had heard from other sources that there were some things that required correction in these places. All sorts of topics are dealt with, sometimes in the most homely style. It might be to advise the converts; or reprove them; or to defend himself from false accusations. It might be a letter about a private person, like the letter to Onesimus. But whatever the letters deal with, it is absolutely clear that they were written just at particular times to meet particular cases that occurred naturally in the course of his missionary labours. It is therefore certain that neither Paul or anyone else
again, anyone except God!
intended these letters to set forth the whole scheme of Christian salvation, any more than Pope John Paul II intended to do when he wrote his latest letter to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church last year.
Are you actually saying that a letter from the pope is on par with scripture?
True, Paul was an Apostle and therefore inspired, and his letters are a final and decisive authority on the various points he deals with. But that does not alter the fact that they nowhere claim to state the whole of Christian truth, or to be a complete guide of salvation to anyone. They are written to believers. In other words, the Church – the people of God – existed and did its work before these letter we call “the Scriptures” existed. It would have done so, even if these letters had not been written at all!
I repeat. We are not undervaluing the word of God. We are simply recognizing the place it was meant to occupy
Again, subordinate to fallible men
It was written by the Church (no, by the Holy Spirit), by members of the Church (which church was it Paul was a member of?). It belongs to the Church (No, it belongs to God) and it is her job, therefore, to say what it means
No, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Corinthians 2:14
It is intended for instruction, meditation, encouragement, devotion, and serves as a proof and witness of the teachings of the Christian people. But it was never intended to be, and could not be, a complete guide to truth in the hands of anyone who cares to pick it up and read it
Who said so? The catholic hierarchy who derives power and wealth from being the single point of contact for all things ‘Christian’? God forbid the common man should understand that when the temple veil was torn asunder priests were no longer needed to mediate between God and man.
The Bible is part of the tradition of God’s people, what they hand on with reverence and pride and love. And these people (the Church) are the writers and interpreters (again, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job) of the Bible, their greatest treasure.
Now, to return to the purpose of the article: it isn't to get embroiled in an argument such as we are getting embroiled in, because it is obvious that you have your own fixed "beliefs" based on what you have been taught. It is to say that you believe what you believe, let us believe what we believe, but let us come together in love
You mean like when those who believe, as I do, in the supremacy of scripture for faith and practice were burned alive by the Catholic Church? After the fall of the Roman Empire the biggest martyrer of Christians was the Roman Church.
After we die, we can all find out who is right and who is wrong
Trouble is it will be too late then if one has embraced a false Christ, purgatory is also non-Biblical as the scriptures teach “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” Hebrews 9:27
In the meantime, let us just love one another. Or do you believe that the Catholic Church got this wrong too?
The best way to love anyone is to share the truth with them.
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Mary, thanks for the feedback. If this person, not being a 'theologian' got Catholic doctrine wrong on any of these points I'd be interested to know where. As for study, my wish is not that people study a church or denomination looking for truth but the Word of God. As Paul admonishes us in Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." God bless...
May we always remember that a "practicing Catholic" is not the same as a Church theologian. Far from it. As a practicing Catholic, a student of scripture through Bible Study, I am reminded that we become stronger in our faith through adversity. Articles such as this will make many a Catholic stronger. Many will actually study our beautiful church of which they are a member, and in the end you will have brought many searching people closer to their Divine and loving Father through his everlasting son and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It's tough to address this issue in a way that "gives offense to no man" (1 Cor. 10:32-33). Both parties appear very certain of the truth of their own point of view... although it is perhaps enlightening to see the two views juxtaposed like this. May the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth! And as Jesus said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!"