Monday, January 30, 2012

Sola Scriptura

This past week I began what will hopefully be a fruitful dialogue with a woman who is, by her definition a Christian (as opposed to a Catholic, which is what she used to be before she found Jesus). Make no mistake, I also call her a Christian (in that she believes in Christ) I just object to her claim that Catholics do not believe in Christ. According to her, she was "more" Catholic than I am, which begs the question of why she left. After all, if she was more completely devoted to the Church, more understanding of the truth, then why abandon said Church and truth.

Her position is that nothing can be said about the Bible except other texts in the Bible. In other words, the Bible is its own commentary, and one interprets it by reading different parts of it. She has requested that I use only the Bible to prove my points. The nice part about it is that I have not read the Bible as much as a good Catholic should, and this is a perfect opportunity to become more familiar with scripture. As St. Jerome said "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."

So I was thinking about her claims as I did my research, and realized something. Totally by coincidence (of course), my friend Owen Swain posted a link on Google+ about Sola Scriptura which said the same thing I was thinking. Namely, if scripture alone holds the truth, and it is self-interpreting, how came someone publish a book on it? For that matter, how can one evangelize? This woman is arguing for me to accept her interpretation of scripture, but if scripture is its own interpretation than either (a) the Catholic interpretation is as valid as hers, or (b)we are both wrong.

In fact, by telling me how to interpret scripture, she is doing what she decries the Catholic Church for doing - preaching "outside" of scripture. And so I think the question I must pose is "who is more likely to have a correct interpretation of scripture?" A woman with no formal training who reads the Bible every day for 14 years, or a bishop who has at least two PhDs in theology and Philosophy, at least seven honorary PhDs, has been at the forefront of theology and Biblical studies for years, and who has written numerous books on the subject. Oh yes, and has read the Bible every day since (at least) 1951. My answer appears at the top of this post.


In my pre-Catholic days I also believed in Sola Scriptura. For some reason I never saw how irrational that is. For example, if five people see an accident happen and are asked to describe what they saw you will get five versions. Our perception is based on things that impress us based on our peculiar knowledge and experience. The number of Protestant denominations which I believe now exceeds 38,000, each claiming their own interpretation of the Bible, proves the need for one consistent authority, i.e. the Catholic one.

It's a blind spot with Protestants isn't it? It was mine. "In fact, by telling me how to interpret scripture, she is doing what she decries the Catholic Church for doing -" absolutely. Of course she has the Holy Spirit to help her whereas the Church doesn't. Ahem.

Also ironic is that fact that the Church non Catholics find closed, narrow, exclusive based on at best a misunderstanding of "there is no salvation outside the Church" consider Catholics non Christians whereas that same Church considers non Catholic Christians baptized according to the (scriptural) Trinitarian formula to be, according to that baptism, true Christians - at least positionally (no one but God can know their end state). The best explanation I have read on this comes from convert Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in his book "Catholic Matters" where he clarifies that by virtue f the veracity of the sacrament of Baptism itself non Catholic Christians (so defined above) are, as the CCC or a Vii Doc gives it, "imperfectly joined" to Mother Church, which is to say, all true Christians *are* Catholics. Oh yeah.

I would hasten to add that the above view is not only disparaged by many non Catholic Christians but by many self identifying Radical Traditionalist Catholics who like to pit Trent against Vatican I/II. I've had that discussion too.

So true. Sola Scriptura collapses on its own. You could always as a starting point, ask her to prove Sola Scriptura and prove which books of the Bible (or not in the Bible) are inspired before you'll start your efforts. Certainly be sure to ask if some books in the Bible are more essential than others and how she knows that - it will help you avoid being set up.

Unfortunately the whole premise of the endeavor actually begs the question, since by demanding Sola Scriptura she is essentially denying the very point in question, that the Catholic Church has the authority to teach.

Thank you Judy and Owen. I have never been anything but a (bad) Catholic, so I always worry that I don't understand the perspective of Protestants - and I admit to envying converts for their courage and special relationship to the LORD that I don't necessarily feel.

It's only recently that I learned how lucky I am, and how unique the Catholic church is among all the religions of the world - no other has a Magisterium like we do.

Paul, she may have already stepped in it, because I did ask the question, and she invoked Jamnia for the OT canon. No word on the NT canon, but I'm sure she will happily point to Apostles while denying that they were the bishops of the Catholic church.

Veggie Tales recently did the "true" story of St. Nicholas ( which I wathed with the kids.Now I love the Veggie Tales series, but this one, in attempting to avoid the fact that St. Nick was a Catholic bishop, essentially told this story ( almost verbatim.

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