“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)
I have heard the argument from Protestants that the Bible is the only authority. They do not believe that the Catholic Church has authority on earth at all. Well, the Bible says absolutely nothing about being the only authority. As evidenced from the verse of Timothy above, the church is the foundation of the truth, not the Bible. Some people may quote 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be equipped for every good work,” to claim that only Scripture is infallible, but their argument doesn’t hold up. This verse is just saying that Scripture is inspired and that we should look to it for instruction and inspiration in the ways of God; it doesn’t say that it is the only source that we should look to. Do we not pray; do we not look to learned theologians; do we not seek advice from our pastors; do we not worship in community and seek fellowship with other believers to help us grow in our spiritual life as well? Reading and studying Sacred Scripture is just one of the ways we can grow in holiness and one of the ways we can grow closer to God; it is not the only way. Now, for those of you who insist that Scripture is the only authority, I’d like to ask you how you could possibly believe that is possible when Scripture itself doesn’t even teach that anywhere?
Now, if you believe that Scripture is the only authority on earth when it comes to faith and morals, then why, may I ask you are there so many different denominations who each interpret Scripture differently? Why are there so many interpretations of Sacred Scripture? And which one do you think is true? I mean if you really believe that Scripture is the only authority, then please tell me why there are Anglicans, Baptists, Born-again Christians, Brethren-in-Christ Churches, Calvary Churches, Episcopalians, Bible Fundamentalists, Non-denominational churches, Methodists, Presbyterians, start up churches too numerous to count and the list goes on and on. They all teach different theologies and they all have different pastors who went to different seminaries which teach different interpretations of Scripture. Which ‘church’ is correct? Which interpretation is correct? Shouldn’t there only be one interpretation considering your argument of Scripture as the only authority?
The Catholic Church is the only authority on earth when it comes to faith and morals. It is the only Church to which Christ gave His authority and it is the only Church that is capable of interpreting Scripture infallibly. He said to the Apostles, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (John 16:13) The Catholic Church is universal, for that is what catholic means. It is the worldwide church that was established by Christ on Peter (Matthew 16:18-20) 2000 years ago. It is the only Church Christ intended to have or indeed wanted. He never wanted separation or disunity. Do you really believe Jesus wanted a multitude of denominations? No, he wanted only one. He spoke of it so beautifully in John 17:20-23.
Let me ask you some questions. Do you believe that all the prophets of the Old Testament spoke infallibly? Do you believe that all of the writers of the New Testament wrote infallibly? Then, why may I ask, can you not believe that The Pope alone or the Bishops in union with the Pope of the Catholic Church cannot teach infallibly? Do you really believe that the Holy Spirit stopped revealing His truths after the last book of the Bible had been written down? How can you not believe that God is still teaching His truths to us down through the centuries? Do you really believe that God would inspire people to write Sacred writings and then not give anyone the sole authority and ability to interpret it correctly? There can be only one true interpretation of Sacred Scripture and that is from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. There is no doubt in my mind. It is such a freeing feeling for me to know that I can turn to the Church in all my decisions in life. It is so beautiful to know that our Lord gave authority to His Church and that I can look to it for guidance in my every day decisions; otherwise life would be even more difficult than it already is.
The reason we have such liberal relativism in our world today is because of the teaching of sola scriptura – which is the teaching that Scripture alone is the only authority, not the Church. This started in the 1500s when Martin Luther broke away from the Church. Instead of working to reform the Church as it needed in some areas, he completely broke away and started a whole new religion of Protestantism. As evidenced by the never-ending list of differing denominations, Sola Scriptura obviously isn’t working because individuals keep disagreeing on what scripture means and they form new ‘churches’ to suit their ideas of what the ‘truth’ is. They apply their own beliefs to Scripture instead of accepting the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium.
Even in the Old Testament, the law had to be interpreted and explained to the people so that they could understand it. “Standing at one end of the Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:3) “Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.” (Nehemiah 8: 8) and then later in verse 12, “Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.” Please see the whole story in Nehemiah 8:1-12
Now, may I ask you if the Israelites needed the Word of God to be explained to them by his holy prophets why do you think that individual pastors or even you, yourself, can interpret the Sacred Scriptures? There can be only one interpreter of Scripture and that is the Catholic Church. It even states it in Scripture, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
Now if you’re inclined to think that it was only in the Old Testament that the law had to be explained, then may I bring your attention to a passage in the New Testament in Acts 8 about Philip and the Ethiopian. “The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go and join up with that chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30) “Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35) Please see the whole passage, Acts 8:26-40
To me it is quite clear from Scripture that the books of the Bible need to be interpreted from a qualified source. It cannot be done by just anybody, for when that happens mass chaos can occur and that is what has happened today with modern day Protestantism. There are new churches starting up all over the place. That can hardly be what our Lord intended his Church to be. Luther began it when he started the teaching of sola scriptura. Jesus never told the Apostles to hand people a Bible and to let them decide for themselves what it meant. He told them to TEACH all nations what he had commanded them. (Matthew 28:20) And if their authority had not passed down to their successors, then there would be a billion different ways to interpret Scripture and that is exactly what happened after the Protestant Revolt in the 1500s. People decided they knew better than God himself and started their own churches which made up their own minds about what God meant when He inspired the Sacred Writings in the Book we call the Bible.
May I digress for a moment and give you just one example of how Protestants do not follow Sacred Scripture as the Ultimate authority on their lives. Up until 1930, all Christians were opposed to contraception following the Bible verse in Genesis 38:9-10 “Onan, however, knew that the descendants would not be counted as his; so whenever he had relations with his brother’s widow, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid contributing offspring for his brother. What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life too.” However at the Lambeth Conference in 1930, the Anglican Church said that contraception could be used in some instances. Then, later it gave in to societal pressure and allowed it all the time. Since then, all mainline Protestant denominations have also allowed it. How could it be that Protestantism followed the Biblical teaching for about 400 years after the Protestant Revolt that all united Christendom had followed for 1500 years, but then all of a sudden changed their minds? Could it be that they had no one to hold them accountable to the teachings in the Bible because they broke away from the only Church that our Lord came to find on Peter (Matthew 16:18-20)? Could it be that Martin Luther had taught that anyone could interpret Scripture for themselves? The Catholic Church is the only Church that has not caved in to societal pressure and has had and will always have the teaching against contraception. You can read this article from Catholic Answers to have it more completely explained to you.
However, my point in bringing this up is that the Catholic Church is the only Church who continually teaches the divine truths revealed by God in His Holy Word without error because She is the only one who has been given an infallible teaching authority. No man or woman or societal pressure or the changes in modern thinking will bend the heart and mind of the Church that Christ came to find. Jesus not only came to die for us, he came to give us His Spotless Bride, the Catholic Church, the Universal Church. He is the head of the Church, how can there be so many differing bodies? How can you dare to say that they all can interpret Scripture as they see fit? There is only one True interpretation of Holy Scripture and the One, Holy, Catholic Church is the only authority on earth on matters of faith and morals. The Church gave us the Bible and it is the only one who can interpret it without error. It completely and totally baffles my mind that there are people in our world who truly believe that the Bible is the only authority on faith matters. This does not even make common sense. How many people are on earth? Everyone thinks differently do they not? God Almighty surely knew that and so he established a LIVING Authority, to guide us on our life’s journey! He surely knew what he was doing.
For if you still believe that the Bible is the only authority then please explain to me why Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an ORAL statement or by a letter of ours.” Now, what do you suppose he means by an oral statement? He is speaking of Sacred Tradition that Jesus himself taught the apostles and in which he commanded them to hand down. Before things were ever written down, they were passed down through word of mouth. May I ask you, do you ever tell your children or family members of traditions or customs that you celebrate or are important to you in your family? Do you always write them down? Do you know some customs or traditions that have been handed down through many centuries in your family or as an American? The apostles handed down Sacred tradition that they received from Jesus “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2) Jesus passed down this Sacred Tradition to his apostles and they in turn passed it on to their successors for the whole church.
The Holy Spirit protects the Pope and the Bishops in union with the Pope from making any error in passing down this tradition which is for the entire Catholic Church. Jesus also told his disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) So, when we reject the Church which Jesus established when He walked this earth, we are rejecting Him and God the Father. I really don’t think Christ could have been more clear, do you? He never said we should read the Bible. The Bible is in fact a product of Sacred Tradition. The Catholic Church is the one who collected and preserved the writings of the New Testament. The Catholic monks of the Middle Ages were the ones who hand-copied the Scriptures for us so that they could be passed down and not forgotten. There were no printing presses yet. Without them we wouldn’t even have the Bible. So all of you Protestants out there who refuse to accept the authority of the Church and say it is Scripture alone, the only reason you have the Bible is because the Catholic Church gave it to you.
Lastly, the Bible is the most complex book I have ever read. There are historical, allegorical, poetic, narrative, prophetic, proverb, literal and symbolic type writings in it. The sacred writers wrote in different styles, had different audiences to whom they wrote. The only people who are capable of interpreting all of the different types of writings which of course have been translated from the original language of Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, of the inspired writers are those given authority from Christ himself. It was to the APOSTLES that he gave authority and through them to their successors.
The Word of God is Living; it is not just words on the page written so very long ago. We need to understand that we are children of the Living and only true God. We are more His children than of our earthly parents. Do you really think that He would not give us a living authority on earth to guide us in His ways? Do you really think that He would let us alone to figure it all out for ourselves? I believe, respect and absolutely LOVE the authority of the Catholic Church on earth. I will continue to pray that you also will find a way to accept that beautiful authority that Christ came to give us all. For when he said to His disciples He sent forth, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) I take him at his word, shouldn’t you?
All you Holy Apostles in Heaven, pray for us and for all people everywhere to accept the authority of The Catholic Church, which Christ first gave to you when He walked the earth.