Category Archives: LDS

Are Catholic rules a yoke of slavery?


-by Karlo Broussard

“It’s no secret that the Catholic Church has rules. Catholics are obliged to attend Mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation. We have to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meats on Fridays during Lent. We have to confess our sins at least once a year, and so on.

Some Protestants have a problem with this since they tend to associate rules with the kind of vain, works-based religion that Christ has done away with. A favorite passage of those who make this challenge is Galatians 5:1, where Paul writes, “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

With all its rules, is the Catholic Church submitting Christians to a yoke of slavery?

The answer is no.

First, the yoke of slavery that Paul is talking about is clearly intended to be the yoke of the Mosaic Law, not laws in general. For example, in the verses following the passage in question, he writes,

“Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace . . . For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:2-6)

Notice that circumcision, which is an example par excellence of a precept from the Mosaic Law, is the focus of the passage. This is a clue that it’s the rules associated with the Mosaic Law or “works of the law” (Gal. 2:16) that Paul is calling the “yoke of slavery,” not rules in general.

Second, all communities and families need rules—Christianity is no different. Virtually all Protestants agree that rules can serve a good purpose. Nations and communities need laws. Sports need rules and referees to enforce them. Households have family rules for how children should behave. You can’t just do whatever you want in a family if you want peaceful coexistence.

If rules are good for family life, especially in a home where parents love their kids and one another, then they are good for the Church—since the Church is the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15). If God’s Church is his household, then it’s reasonable for him to have rules to govern its members for the sake of maintaining peace and order.

Of course, Protestant communities aren’t strangers to rules and laws. For example, many say that a person has to be fully immersed in water for his baptism to be valid. Some forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages.

Other examples involve the governance of marriage. Many Protestant groups require that spouses profess their vows in the presence of witnesses. Most have the precept that divorce and remarriage are permitted only on the condition that a spouse has committed adultery. If Protestant communities have these sorts of rules or laws, then wouldn’t they be subject to this challenge as well?

Third, the New Testament gives evidence that rules were a part of the Christian life in the early Church. Let’s start with Jesus.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus stipulates that the nations would be made disciples through baptism. So, baptism is a New Covenant precept or rule, if you will. Another is the celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus commands the apostles in Luke 22:19 to offer the Last Supper as a memorial offering: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals his intention that rules would be a part of the Christian life. For example, he gives us a variety of ethical precepts:

We must not be angry with our brother nor insult him (Matt. 5:22).
We must reconcile with our brother before we offer our gifts at the altar (Matt. 5:23).
We must not look at others lustfully in our hearts (Matt. 5:28).

These are just a sample of the ethical rules that Jesus intends Christians to live by. Jesus also intends certain pious actions to be part of the Christian life: almsgiving (Matt. 6:2-4), prayer (Matt. 6:5-15), and fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). He even gives instructions (rules) on how those who disobey the judgment of the Church are to be dealt with: “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17).

Paul follows suit, stipulating a number of rules to govern the local churches. For example, he instructs the Corinthians to keep the feast of the new Passover, which is the Eucharist (1 Cor. 5:8). He even gives instructions concerning the reception of the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, forbidding anyone to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord “in an unworthy manner.”

In 1 Timothy 5:9-11, Paul lays down certain rules concerning proper implementation of consecrated celibacy with regard to “enrolled” widows. He instructs the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives rules to govern the Corinthians and their practice of speaking in tongues as they gather in church.

Now, some Protestants will probably concede that at least some rules can be part of the Christian life, especially in light of the evidence presented above. But they still might reject the number of rules in the Catholic Church.

But how do we know how many rules is too many? What’s the magic number of rules that a church should have? Whatever number someone comes up with, it would be completely arbitrary—whatever feels right. But Christians of all kinds have different feelings, and their different churches have varying numbers of rules.

And despite the charge that Catholicism has too many rules, in truth, it has relatively few when compared to other groups of comparable size. For example, the United States has around 325 million citizens. The 2012 edition of the United States Code (federal law) totals 45,000 pages in thirty-four volumes. By comparison, a standard English edition of the Code of Canon Law, the main legal text for the large majority of the Church’s one billion members, totals a little more than 500 pages in a single volume. (According to the Census of the 2020 Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook), the number of baptized Catholics in the world was about 1.329 billion at the end of 2018).

Finally, we can also point out that not only is the Church’s code of laws relatively short, but many of those laws apply to specific situations that an ordinary Catholic rarely—if never—encounters. So only a fraction of them impact his daily life. As for the rest, Catholics can be instructed on the “dos and don’ts” as the situation arises.

In the end, it’s simply unreasonable to think that no rules are binding just because the Bible says that some rules aren’t binding. And on top of that, the Bible gives plenty of positive evidence that rules are a part of the Christian life. When it comes to rules, the Catholic Church turns out to be a bible-believing Church after all!”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Heresy by any other name


-stained glass of a heretic, in the Cathedral of Saint Rumbold in Mechelen, Belgium.


-by Kenneth D. Whitehead

“Virtually as soon as the revelation brought by Christ was delivered to the Church he had established, some of those within the Church got it very wrong about what it meant and entailed. Even some of the bishops, successors of the apostles, got it wrong. The history of the first four or five centuries of Christianity, especially as reflected in the first four ecumenical councils, is largely a history of how the Church developed, formulated, and explained its Creed—beliefs based on the teachings of Christ.

In the process of developing and formulating that Creed—the same Nicene Creed that we profess today at Mass—the Church was obliged to identify and to eliminate various false and mistaken ideas about Christ’s original revelation. These false and mistaken ideas about the Church and the faith came to be called heresies. The word heresy comes from the Latin haeresis, meaning “act of choosing.” Those adhering to these false and mistaken ideas, i.e., heretics, were understood to have chosen a different interpretation of the faith than the one the Church proclaimed.

Once they were identified as false doctrines, there was no question in the minds of the Fathers of the Church but that these heresies needed to be condemned. Today, of course, the idea of condemning anybody for holding any belief is not very popular. Indeed, the idea that heresy is something necessarily false and harmful is not very popular. In the modern mind heresy is often thought to be something to be proud of; “heretics” are as likely as not to be considered cultural heroes. But if all ideas are accorded equal status regardless of whether or not they are true, then very soon truth itself inevitably goes by the board.

To a great extent, this is what has happened in our world today: Toleration is valued more than truth. Pope Benedict XVI just prior to his election called it a “dictatorship of relativism.” It is a situation that the Fathers of the Church, who believed in the primacy of truth, would not have understood at all.

Today’s failure to identify and affirm truth doesn’t mean that there are no harmful consequences. On the contrary, the harm to souls in need of sanctification and salvation becomes all the greater to the extent that people believe it doesn’t matter whether or not they adhere to true belief and practice. For heresy is necessarily harmful—and even fatal—to souls.

Moreover, heresies abound today every bit as much as they did in the days when the Creed was being hammered out at the first great ecumenical councils. Indeed, some of the heresies that are commonly encountered today are virtually the same as those condemned in ancient times—they just go by different names. Let us look at a few examples.

“A Great Moral Teacher”

Arianism was perhaps the most typical and persistent of the ancient heresies. Basically it involved a denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It was first effectively advanced by Arius (256–336), a priest of Alexandria in Egypt, who denied that there were three distinct divine Persons in the Holy Trinity. For Arius, there was only one Person in the Godhead, the Father. According to Arian theory, the Son was a created being. The Arians liked to say that “there was a time when he was not.” For them, Christ was “the Son of God” only in a figurative sense, or by “adoption” (just as we are children of God by adoption), not in his essential being or nature.

Arianism was formally condemned by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Indeed, it was the spread of Arianism and Arian ideas among the faithful, and the disputes and disorders that resulted, that prompted Emperor Constantine to call the Council of Nicaea in the first place. What the Council decided—against Arius and his adherents—was that the Son was homoousios (“one in being” or “consubstantial”) with the Father. In other words, that the Son of God was himself God, was therefore eternal, and hence that there never was a time when he was not.

The fathers of Nicaea issued their Creed precisely to insist on the three Persons in one substance in the Trinity and on the divinity of Christ. If Christ was not divine, then the world was not redeemed by his sacrifice on the cross. Eventually the faith itself dissolves if Christ is not understood to be divine; after all, he very plainly insisted in the Gospels that he was (cf. John 10:30, 38; 14:10, 11).

Yet today nothing is more common, even among some who consider themselves Christians, than to hold that Christ was not really divine: He was just a good man, a great moral teacher, a model to follow; perhaps he even represented the highest ideal of a man for mankind. But, as an all-too-common human skepticism asserts, he was surely not God for the simple reason that no human being could be God. Common sense revolts against it. Indeed, the Church teaches that it is only by divine grace infused in our souls that we can believe in the divinity of Christ.

Thus, there is a human temptation to believe the doctrine of Arianism. Today’s Arians, though, do not call themselves Arians; for the most part they are not aware that they are Arians. Yet a religion such as Unitarianism is nothing else but Arian in its denial of the divinity of Christ and of the Trinity. Similarly, a modern American religion such as Mormonism is wholly Arian in its account of a divine being, even if it is ignorant of Arianism historically.

Because it is so easy to doubt that any human being could possibly be divine, though, Arianism was not only the most basic and persistent of all the ancient heresies; it also assumed a number of variant forms. Adoptionism is the belief that Jesus was just a man to whom special graces were given when he was “adopted” by God. Modalism held that there is only one Person in God who manifests himself in various ways or modes, including in Jesus. Semi-Arianism held that the Son was of like substance with God (homo-i-ousios), though not of identical in substance with Him. All of these variants of Arianism were sometimes classified under the name Subordinationism (i.e., Christ as “subordinate” to the Father). Even today, poorly instructed Christians can be found espousing one or more of these variants when they are examined closely concerning Who and What they think Jesus Christ was and is.

What Is a Person?

Growing out of the long-running Arian controversies were the two opposed heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Nestorianism was a heresy promoted by a bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius (d. c. 451), who held that there were two distinct persons in Christ, one human and one divine. Thus, the Nestorians claimed that it could not be said that God was born, was crucified, or died. Mary merely gave birth to a man whose human person was conjoined to that of God. The Nestorians saw Christ’s divinity as superimposed on his humanity.

Nestorianism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431, where the argument raged over the question of whether Mary was Theotokos (“God-bearer” or “Mother of God”) or was merely the “mother of Christ,” a man conjoined to God. From the words of the Hail Mary we can figure out what the Church decided at Ephesus, but even today poorly instructed Christians can be found opining that Christ was a “human person.” (The same characterization is sometimes even to be encountered today in defective catechetical texts.)

But Christ was not a “human person.” He was a divine person who assumed a human nature. The whole question of what a person is was a key question in the Trinitarian and christological definitions formulated by the ancient councils. The ancients were not clear in their minds about what constituted a “person”; it was not apparent to them that there was a “somebody” in each human individual. It was as a direct result of the Church’s definitions concerning the three distinct divine Persons in the Trinity that the very concept of what we understand as personhood today was achieved and that the Roman philosopher Boethius (480–524) was able to formulate his famous definition of a person as “an individual substance of a rational nature.”

Once this concept of personhood became clear, the Church was able to promulgate the truth that remains valid and operative to this day, namely, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Second Person of the blessed Trinity, is a divine person but possesses both a divine and a human nature.

“I’m a Very Spiritual Person”

Monophysitism, the heresy opposed to Nestorianism, arose as a corrective to the latter, but it went too far in the other direction, holding that in Christ there is only one nature (Greek: mono, “single,” physis, “nature”), a divine nature. This position entailed a denial of Christ’s true human nature. Monophysitism was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. This great Council taught that Christ was true God and true man, a divine person possessing both a divine and a human nature, thus rounding out the Church’s permanent understanding of Christology.

Yet even today some ill-instructed Christians will tell you that Christ, being the Son of God and hence divine, must also necessarily have a divine nature, without understanding that Christ had a fully human nature as well. Professing some form of Monophysitism is rather common among self-consciously “spiritual” people, as a matter of fact—people who, meanwhile, are not always prepared to affirm and follow Christian moral teaching as the Church defines it.

Entire churches or communities broke away from the Church as a result of the christological definitions of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Some of these breakaway communions still exist today in the ancient churches of the East, such as the Assyrian, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian (Jacobite), etc. Today many of these ancient communions, in ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church, are rethinking their positions and are close to agreement with the Catholic Church on doctrinal essentials, stating that their ancient disagreements stemmed at least in part from misunderstandings of exactly what Ephesus or Chalcedon had taught or affirmed—for these ancient councils also had condemned by name certain individuals (such as Nestorius) who commanded personal followings. In ancient times, some of these communities were unwilling to accept the judgments of the councils regarding their then-leaders.

Holier Than Thou

Donatism was a fourth- and fifth-century African heresy that held that the validity of the sacraments depended upon the moral character of the person administering the sacraments. Donatists also denied that serious sinners could be true members of the Church. Donatism began as a schism when rigorists claimed that a bishop of Carthage, Caecilian (c. 313), could not be a true bishop because he had been ordained by a bishop who had caved in under pressure and apostatized during the Diocletian persecutions around 303.

The Donatists ended up as a widespread sect that ordained its own bishops, one of whom was Donatus, who gave his name to the movement. Vigorously opposed by the great St. Augustine (354–430), the Donatist movement persisted in northern Africa until the Muslim conquest in the seventh century.

Today the continuing temptation to a modern kind of Donatism can be seen in such phenomena as the Lefebrvist schism after Vatican II, when some people who objected to certain teachings and acts of the Council decided to found their own little church, the Society of St. Pius X. The SSPX has its own bishops, validly but illicitly ordained by French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The group is thus not just a group of disgruntled traditionalists who want to retain the old Latin Mass; rather, the SSPX has serious doctrinal and pastoral disagreements with the Church. They consider the pope and the bishops who have governed the Church since the Council to be unworthy to carry on what they hold to be the true “tradition” of the Church. Basically their reasoning is that the leaders of the Church were wrong at and after Vatican II; hence their acts since then have been invalid. This kind of reasoning is similar to that by which the ancient Donatists decided that the ordination of the bishop of Carthage was invalid because of the unworthiness of his ordaining bishop.

But the truth is, of course, that sacraments correctly administered with the proper intention by a validly ordained minister are valid regardless of the moral character or condition of the minister. Thus, even if mistakes were made in the implementation of the Council, the pope and the bishops nevertheless remain the Church’s legitimate rulers, in accordance with the Church’s constant teaching going back at least to the condemnation of Donatism. The powers and authority conferred by Christ on the apostles and their successors are not dependent upon the worthiness of those on whom they are conferred—think of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ!

We also see a revival of Donatist-type thinking in those who have recently left the Church because of the much-publicized sins of priests guilty of sex abuse and bishops guilty of enabling and covering up for them. The idea that the wrongs or sins of the clergy invalidate their acts or status has frequently recurred in the history of the Church. As early as the second century, for example, a morally rigorous priest named Novatian set himself up as an anti-pope in 251 because the followers of the true pope, St. Cornelius, were allegedly too lenient toward Christians who had lapsed during the Decian persecutions in 249–251. The Novatianists rejected the Church’s authentic belief and practice that the lapsed and other serious sinners could be readmitted to Communion after doing penance.

“If It Feels Good, Do It”

A recurring phenomenon in the history of the Church is that heresies often arose because of either moral rigorism or moral laxity. An example of the latter was the heresy of Pelagianism, championed by a monk from the British Isles named Pelagius (355–425). Pelagius denied that divine grace in the soul is necessary to do good; his doctrine included a number of heretical tenets such as that Adam would have died even if he had not sinned and that Adam’s fall injured only himself. Essentially, Pelagianism amounted to a denial of the doctrine of original sin, and it also entailed a denial of the supernatural order and of the necessity of divine grace for salvation. Augustine, who had discovered from bitter personal experience that he could not be chaste without the help of grace, strongly and persistently contested Pelagius and his teaching.

In modern times, Pelagianism has sometimes been called “the British heresy” because of its resemblance to a certain species of modern British-style liberalism (which, the suggestion is, goes all the way back to Pelagius!). But nothing is more common in modern thinking than the denial of original sin. Outside the Catholic Church, it is nearly universal, and it persists in the face of all the evidence against it.

Probably the whole range of behavior related to the contemporary sexual revolution, for example, as well as to the theological dissent that is still rife in the Church—particularly on matters of sexual morality—can be ascribed to a basic Pelagian impulse. People today, including too many Catholics, simply do not recognize or take seriously that there are or could be any harmful consequences stemming from what is erroneously thought to be sexual liberation, as evidenced, for example, by the widespread rejection by Catholics of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. The harmful consequences have long since been obvious to anyone who cares to look at today’s multiple plagues of divorce, pre- and extramarital sex, cohabitation, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortion, not to speak of the contemporary acceptance of homosexuality as a normal condition.

In an important sense, even the clerical sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church goes back to the explosion of sexual immorality that began in the 1960s and both helped cause and was in part caused by the rejection of Humanae Vitae. Modern opinion nevertheless generally goes on stoutly and obstinately maintaining that the so-called sexual liberation ushered in by the sexual revolution, along with the moral acceptance of contraception, is a good and necessary thing. All this is Pelagianism with a vengeance.

“I’m in with the In Crowd”

Gnosticism is the idea that salvation comes through knowledge—usually some special kind of knowledge claimed by an elite. Think of the New Age, for example. Think of Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code, which, along with other falsehoods, exhibits a good deal of Gnostic-style thinking that the book’s millions of readers seem to have embraced wholly and uncritically. Most varieties of Gnosticism also hold that matter and the body are evil while only “spirit” is good. Some forms of Gnosticism even see human beings as trapped in our bodies. The theory thus denies the truth of the biblical teaching that “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). For the true Gnostic, the Incarnation is a scandal—God would not contaminate his spirit by taking on a body.

Gnosticism existed before Christianity and attached itself to it as a convenient vehicle for its own very unChristian ideas about reality and God’s creation. The surprising thing, perhaps, is that it ever attempted to use Christianity for its purposes. The historical fact of the matter, though, is that Gnosticism has been a persistent element in practically every major Christian heresy. Probably one of the reasons for this is that, in some ways, our bodiliness is a burden to us. As Paul remarked, “the whole creation has been groaning in travail” (Rom. 8:22) until we can realize the fullness of our salvation in Christ—thus the temptation to look for salvation in some kind of escape from our bodiliness and creatureliness as God has created us in this world.

But true salvation lies elsewhere; it comes uniquely from Jesus Christ: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This revelation of salvation in Christ is essentially what Gnosticism denies. Like all heresies to which we might be tempted, any form of Gnostic thinking is therefore to be avoided as we cleave to the truths revealed by and in Jesus Christ and unerringly taught by the magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Protestantisms

“I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me.” -Jn 17:21


-by Jimmy Akin

“Recently, friends called to our attention the existence of a new Facebook group, calling itself “Catholic Answers,” that serves as a forum to attack Catholic teaching as false and unbiblical. Its description page includes the group’s “one rule”:

Because all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8), so, If a Roman Catholic decides to make the false claim that there are “x number of denominations”, they will be required to name them all, by name [sic].

The multiplication of Protestant denominations and sects following the Reformation is a common talking-point for Catholic apologists and often a sore spot for Protestants. It’s a licit point for Catholics to raise—after all, Christ came to build one Church whose members would live and believe in unity with each another, not many churches that disagree over important points of faith and morals. But it’s also one that should not be exaggerated.

What are the different varieties of Protestantism?

There are many varieties of Protestantism, and they display an enormous amount of theological diversity. For this reason, it is almost always a mistake to speak of “the” Protestant position on any subject. Even the core distinctives on which Protestantism is based—sola fide and sola scriptura—are understood in markedly different ways. When we move to other doctrines, the diversity only increases.

There are literally thousands of independent Protestant denominations and many more independent congregations. Catholic apologists have pointed to these numbers as illustrations of the tendency of Protestant principles—especially sola scriptura—to cause fragmentation and doctrinal confusion.

This is a valid point. However, sometimes apologists cite misleading numbers, claiming—for example, that there are something like 33,000 Protestant denominations. This number is given as the total number of Christian denominations in the World Christian Encyclopedia, but the methodology used to count them is flawed. It considers two groups to be separate denominations if they are in different countries, even if they are in communion with each other. Because the Catholic Church is found in many countries, the Encyclopedia counts Catholicism as being 242 separate denominations!

Even when denominations operate independently of each other, it doesn’t mean that they disagree theologically. A Presbyterian denomination in America may be totally independent of a Presbyterian denomination in Uganda, but they may have the same doctrinal views.

About half of Protestants worldwide belong to one of six major traditions—Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, or Pentecostals—with the remainder belonging to smaller traditions, including nondenominational groups.

These major traditions historically have all been Trinitarian in theology, and they broadly accept the results of the early ecumenical councils dealing with the Person of Christ. Use of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed is common in many of them, though some clauses (e.g., those regarding belief in the communion of saints, baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and especially the Catholic Church) may be understood in different senses.

Although the majority of groups stemming from the Reformation are Trinitarian, there are movements that reject this teaching. Whether Unitarianism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostalism fall under the definition of Protestant is open to debate.

Over time, a number of movements have emerged in Protestantism that cut across these traditions. By the twentieth century, many historic Protestant denominations had become more theologically liberal, though they still contained conservative congregations and individuals. In the 1920s, they came to be known as “mainline” Protestant churches, and they include representatives of all the major Protestant traditions except Pentecostalism.

Mainline denominations were criticized by more conservative ones, who came to be called “fundamentalists” because they favored The Fundamentals—a twelve-volume set of books advocating conservative positions. Over time, the origin of the term was largely forgotten, and today fundamentalist is a term used to refer to very conservative Protestants (as well as members of other groups and even other religions, e.g., “fundamentalist Muslims”). The term also has taken on negative connotations. If someone is called a fundamentalist, it suggests that he is doctrinally rigid and hostile to other viewpoints. For this reason, the term should be used only for those few Christians who apply it to themselves. Otherwise, it becomes an insult that adds more heat than light.

Because of the negative connotations the term acquired, conservative Protestants needed a different and more positive term for themselves, and in the United States they began to call themselves “evangelicals.” This can be confusing since the term evangelical has been used in other senses. In Europe, it is applied to mainline Protestant churches or, alternately, to anyone who strongly favors evangelism (i.e., preaching the gospel).

However, in the United States evangelical generally indicates a conservative Protestant who distances himself from the rigidity associated with fundamentalism, though the term is fluid and not all who identify themselves as evangelical fit this profile.”

Love & unity,
Matthew

Bible burning


-please click on the image for greater detail.

The Scriptures are written on our hearts. Paper pages also exist.

-Catholic News Agency

“There are some things in them (Epistles of St. Paul) hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” -2 Peter 3:16

“Ever since the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century, the Catholic Church has been accused of ignoring, opposing, hiding, and even destroying the Bible in order to keep it from the people. Allegedly, copies of the Bible were chained to the walls of churches during the Middle Ages so that people could not take them home to read. Supposedly the Church during the Middle Ages also refused to translate the Bible into the various tongues of the common people, the vernacular languages, in order to further hinder personal Bible reading. Furthermore, it is claimed that the Church even went as far as to burn vernacular Bibles.

When examining these charges against the Church, we must consider several points. First, if the Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, why did her monks work diligently through the centuries making copies of it? Before the printing press (before 1450), copies of the Bible were handwritten with beauty and painstaking accuracy. One reason for Bibles being chained to the walls of churches is because each copy was precious both spiritually and materially. It took a monk about a year to hand copy the entire Bible, so Bibles were scarce. The chain kept it safe from loss or theft, so all the people of the church community (parish) could better benefit from it.

Secondly, concerning the vernacular, we must remember that in the 5th century when St. Jerome translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin, Latin was the language of the people. This Bible is commonly called the Vulgate, the common version. Even after a thousand years, Latin still remained the universal language in Europe.

Translating the Bible into the vernacular languages during the Middle Ages was simply impractical. Most vernacular languages at that time did not have an alphabet, so they could not be put into written form. Also, only a few people could read. The few educated persons, who could read, could also read Latin. This situation did not create a great demand for a vernacular Bible nor promote a popular devotion to personal Bible reading.

Even though impractical, there are examples of the Church promoting the vernacular. One example is the mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to the Slavic people in Moravia during the 9th century. They are both famous for introducing the Slavonic liturgy. In their work St. Cyril had to develop an alphabet for the Old Slavonic language. (It became the precursor of the Russian “Cyrillic” alphabet.) In 885 St. Methodius translated the entire Bible into this language. Despite strong political opposition from the Germans, Pope Hadrian II, after careful investigation, confirmed St. Methodius as Archbishop of Moravia and endorsed their Slavonic liturgy. (St. Cyril had already died.) Several later popes continued to uphold their work against attacks; however, Pope Stephen VI recalled the liturgy after being deceived by the German opposition. [1]

In 7th century Britain, before English was even a language, Caedmon, a monk of Whitby, paraphrased most of the Bible into the common tongue. During the early 8th century, St. Bede the Venerable also translated parts of the Bible into the language of the common British people. On his death bed in 735, he translated the Gospel of St. John. Also in this period, Bishop Eadhelm, Guthlac, and Bishop Egbert worked on Saxon Bibles. During the 9th and 10th centuries, King Alfred the Great and Archbishop Aelfric worked on Anglo-Saxon (Old English) translations. After the Norman conquest of 1066, a need for an Anglo-Norman Bible arose, so the Church produced several translations, e.g. Salus Animae (1250). In 1408 the provincial council of Oxford made it clear that vernacular translations could receive approval from the Church. In 1582 the famous Douay-Rheims New Testament translation was completed, while the Old Testament was finished in 1609. Ironically the Douay-Rheims New Testament influenced the King James Bible. [2,3]

After the 14th century when English finally became the popular language of England, vernacular Bibles were used as vehicles for heretical propaganda. John Wycliffe, a dissentient priest, translated the Bible into English. Unfortunately, his secretary, John Purvey, included a heretical prologue, as noted by St. Thomas More. Later William Tyndale translated the Bible into English complete with prologue and footnotes condemning Church doctrines and teachings. [2] St. Thomas More commented that searching for errors in the Tyndale Bible was similar to searching for water in the sea. Even King Henry VIII in 1531 condemned the Tyndale Bible as a corruption of Scripture. In the words of King Henry’s advisors: “the translation of the Scripture corrupted by William Tyndale should be utterly expelled, rejected, and put away out of the hands of the people, and not be suffered to go abroad among his subjects.” [4] As food for thought, if the Wycliffe or Tyndale Bibles were so good, why do Protestants today not use them as they do the King James Bible?

One action that Catholic Christians pursued to stop this propaganda was to burn these books. Does this action make the Church anti-Bible? No. If it did, then the Protestants of this period were also anti-Bible. John Calvin, the main Protestant Reformer, in 1522, had as many copies as could be found of the Servetus Bible burned since Calvin did not approve of it. Later, Calvin had Michael Servetus himself burned at the stake for being a Unitarian. [5] In those days it was common practice on both sides to burn unapproved books. Finally, it is one matter to destroy the real thing and another to destroy a counterfeit.

The Church did not oppose faithful vernacular translations but heretical additions and distortions to the Bible. The Church prohibited these corrupt Bibles in order to preserve the integrity of Holy Scripture. This action was necessary if the Church is to preserve the truth of Christ’s Gospel. As St. Peter in his Epistle (in the Bible) warns us, the ignorant and unstable can distort the Scriptures to their own destruction [2 Peter 3:16; see front panel].

Should good Christian parents allow their children to read a Bible with anti-Christian propaganda or profanity in the footnotes? I certainly would not. Finally, if the Catholic Church truly wanted to destroy the Bible, she had ample opportunity to do so for 1500 years.”

Love,
Matthew

References
[1] Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom (Christendom College Press, 1987) pp. 359,371,385.
[2] The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall, 1968) Vol. II, pp. 586-588.
[3] Henry G. Graham, Where We Got The Bible (TAN Books, 1977) p. 99.
[4] Ibid., pp. 128,130.
[5] Ibid., p. 129.

Chaining the Bible

The Catholic Church doesn’t have a problem with the Bible.  The Church has a problem with inaccurate translations of the Bible.  Who is to determine what is inaccurate or not?  Who is to determine the meaning of Scripture?  The Church.  Mt 16:19, 18:18

https://www.catholicprotestantbridge.com/blog/2019/2/4/did-the-catholic-church-ban-burn-or-chain-bibles-to-keep-laymen-from-reading-the-bible

WHY DID THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CHAIN BIBLES? I HEARD THEY DID IT TO KEEP THE LAITY FROM READING THE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES?

The same reason Protestants chained them. Because bibles were extremely valuable and susceptible to theft-not to keep them from the laity!

Bibles were rare and valuable. By today’s standards, each one would be worth $100,000. That’s why they were chained by both Protestants and the Catholic Church.

Before the printing press, Bibles were copied by hand and each one took thousands of hours to make so they were scarce. The Church wanted to keep them secure.


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“In his 1929 book Survivals and New Arrivals, Hilaire Belloc examined the forces attacking the Catholic Church and its role in society. He put them into two chief categories: “survivals,” those “old forms of attack” that continue to be used by the Church’s enemies but are, in the main, on their way out; and “new arrivals,” the newer forms of attack that focus primarily on the Church’s moral teachings rather than its theological doctrines.

Among the “survivals” was a holdover from Protestantism Belloc termed the “biblical attack.” Its key element, he wrote, is “Bibliolatry”—elevating the Bible to the level of an idol. It is Bibliolatry that is the root of the myth that the Church locked and chained Bibles in medieval churches to prevent the laity from reading them. The implication of this myth is that if medieval people had been able to read the Bible for themselves, they would have recognized that the Catholic Church’s teachings are false and would have sought to free themselves from the yoke of Rome.

The notion that the Church restricts access to Scripture to control its interpretation comes from the Saxon monk-turned-revolutionary Martin Luther. Luther published three famous treatises in 1520 in response to the bull of Pope Leo X (r. 1513–1521), Exsurge Domine, that condemned many of Luther’s teachings.

In An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther exhorted Emperor Charles V and the German nobility to reject papal authority and establish a national German Church in opposition to Rome. He argued that Rome had built three “walls” around itself to maintain its hold on Catholics. He identified these walls as the following false teachings:

1) that the spiritual power is greater than temporal power;

2) that only the pope can authentically interpret Scripture; and

3) that only the pope can call an ecumenical council.

He warned the German nobility that they must be aware “that in this matter we are not dealing with men but with the princes of hell.”

To Luther, the belief that the pope is the only interpreter of Scripture (which is not in fact Church teaching but rather Luther’s erroneous understanding of it) was “an outrageous fable” and is not rooted in the only authoritative source of divine revelation that Luther recognized, Scripture itself. Instead, he put forth the idea that all Christians should be able to interpret Scripture for themselves, a doctrine that would lead to a multitude of rival Protestant denominations.

It is widely believed that, to facilitate the lay reading of Scripture, Luther was first to translate the Bible into German. He was not. The first Bible in the German vernacular was produced in the eighth century at the monastery of Monse. By the fifteenth century, there were 36,000 German manuscript bibles in circulation, and a complete printed Bible in the German vernacular appeared in 1529, five years before Luther’s translation was published. In short, the Church made Scripture accessible to laymen long before Luther and the Reformation did.

There is, in fact, a sense in which the Bible is the product of the Catholic Church, as it was the bishops of the Church who decided which books circulating in the fourth century would be considered canonical. Indeed, the Church took great pains throughout its history to guard, defend, and preserve Scripture. Pope St. Damasus I (r. 366–383) first took up the task of publishing a vernacular version of Scripture, and he employed his brilliant yet irascible secretary St. Jerome (342–420) to accomplish the task. Jerome learned Greek and Hebrew to properly translate the word of God into vernacular Latin.

His translation, which became known as the Vulgate, was not well received in North Africa, where a riot erupted over his version of the book of Jonah. The widespread acceptance of the Vulgate in the Church took time. Perhaps part of the resistance can be attributed to the long memory of the Church. Jerome’s new translation came less than a hundred years after Diocletian initiated the Great Persecution. One of his edicts mandated the surrender of all copies of the sacred writings, an event so destructive that its memory remained with the Church long after the persecution ended. The Church maintained great respect and love for the sacred word, as evidenced by the efforts of monks to preserve it.

The sixth century was witness to the activity of a uniquely saintly man who renounced his worldly life to become a hermit. His reputation for holiness attracted many followers, and soon thereafter Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s vision for his monks was rooted in the idea that monasticism was a “school of divine service” in which the monk committed himself to a life of obedience focused on a routine of work, prayer, study, and self-denial. Benedict’s monks preserved and maintained Western civilization through their painstaking work of copying ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts, as well as devoting time to copying and illustrating Scripture.

Working in the scriptoriums of Benedictine monasteries in the Middle Ages was not easy. It took nearly a year to copy a Bible manuscript. The process was laborious and wearisome; as one monk recorded, “He who does not know how to write imagines it to be no labor; but though three fingers only hold the pen, the whole body goes weary.” Any copying work the monk did not finish during the day had to be completed at night, even in the cold winter months.

Bibles were not only copied but richly and beautifully illuminated with elaborate images. Bible illumination began in the fifth century with Irish monks who painstakingly prepared the skins of calves, sheep, or goats into vellum that was used for the manuscripts. The famous Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript, copied and illuminated in the eighth century, was the work of one scribe who used 130 calfskins and took five years to complete the work. The amount of labor that went into each copy of the Bible led to preventing their theft either by locking them in containers or chaining them to desks. In other words, these were security measures, not efforts to keep Scripture from the faithful.

Indeed, protecting and expensive Bible by securing it allowed greater, not lesser, access to it. Moreover, the Bible was usually placed in a public area of a church so those who could read could peruse its pages. The first mention of this protective policy occurs in the mid-eleventh century in the catalog of St. Peter’s Monastery in Weissenburg, Alsace, where it was recorded that four Psalters were chained in the church. Moreover, the practice was not exclusive to the Catholic Church: Protestants also utilized the well-known security measure, as evidenced by the chaining of the Great Bible (also known as the Chained Bible) published by command of King Henry VIII of England in 1539.

The Real Story

The Protestant principle of sola scriptura led to the myth that the Catholic Church kept the word of God from the faithful to maintain its authority; the chaining of bibles in medieval churches was seen as evidence of this. It also led to the false claim that Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was the first such vernacular edition; in fact, there had been many vernacular editions preceding Luther’s, including St. Jerome’s Vulgate.

It was the Church that, far from suppressing the Bible, determined the canon of its books and then preserved and authoritatively interpreted the written word of God throughout its history. Catholic monks painstakingly preserved the sacred writings and beautifully illustrated them throughout the medieval period. These priceless manuscripts were chained or locked up in churches not to prevent their use but to protect against theft, thus allowing greater access to them, which was standard practice in both Catholic and Protestant churches until the printing press enabled mass production of bibles.”

Love, His Word,
Matthew

Where does the Bible say everything Christians believe must be found in the Bible?


-by Trent Horn

:When Catholics and Protestants have discussions about what divides us, Protestants often pepper their Catholic friends with the question, “Where is that in the Bible?” But seldom do they stop to apply the standard of sola scriptura to their own beliefs. If they did, they would find that some of them don’t come from the Bible at all but from a theological tradition they received from a parent or pastor.

Let’s look at three examples of extrabiblical Protestant traditions.

Where does the Bible say we are not purified of sin after death?

The single most common question we receive at Catholic Answers is, “Where is purgatory in the Bible?” But Protestants who assume that Catholic doctrine about the afterlife should be spelled out explicitly in Scripture rarely apply this same standard to their own beliefs about life after death. The Protestant author William Edward Fudge writes:

While the Reformers talked about last things, they never did construct an eschatology using the building blocks of Scripture. . . . Luther and Calvin rejected the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, for example, not because they made a thorough study of scriptural eschatology and found it missing, but because purgatory clearly contradicted the doctrine of justification that they had discovered in the Bible.[1]

Protestants typically believe that every Christian is united with Christ immediately after death, and therefore we will have no need for purification. But the passages they cite in defense of this claim, such as Philippians 1:23 (“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”) and 2 Corinthians 5:8 (“We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”) do not stand up to scrutiny.

If I say, “When I am at work in the office, I am away from my family,” that does not mean the moment I leave my office I will be home with my family (I might have to endure a long daily commute, for example). Likewise, a desire to be with Christ does not prove there will be no process of purification before we achieve that desire. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that we can be apart from the body but not at home with the Lord: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.”

Where does the Bible say we should make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior?

Protestants who object to the Mass or sacraments as unbiblical and unnecessary often say that all we need to do instead is accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and confess our sins directly to God rather than to some priest.

Setting aside the fact that the Mass and the sacraments are biblical, I would point out the idea of basing one’s faith around a personal relationship with Jesus is not. Concerning the popular “Sinner’s Prayer” (“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior”), Protestant apologists Matt Slick and Tony Miano note, “There is not a single verse or passage in Scripture, whether in a narrative account or in prescriptive or descriptive texts, regarding the use of a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ in evangelism. Not one” [emphasis in original].

This doesn’t mean it is wrong to ask Jesus to have a personal relationship with us. It just means that this foundational Protestant belief is not found in Scripture. The Bible also never instructs us to confess our sins to the resurrected Jesus, even though almost all Christians are comfortable doing that. So Protestants who adhere to sola scriptura should rethink their belief in these things—or rethink their belief in sola scriptura.

Protestants often cite 1 John 1:9 to defend confessing sins to God (and not to a priest), because it says, “If we confess [Greek, homologōmen; root homologeō] our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But this passage doesn’t say we should confess our sins to God alone. The context of the passage concerns what we say or confess to other people rather than what we communicate to God.

The previous verse, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” and the following verse, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,” describe believers speaking to one another. In fact, aside from Hebrews 13:15, homologeō is never used to describe confessing anything to God. In John’s writings, it is always used to describe confessing a belief to other men. In both the sacrament of confession and anointing of the sick, the priest does not directly forgive sin or heal, but rather he becomes the means by which God grants forgiveness or healing.

Most Protestants would agree with this thinking on something like baptism, since—like Catholics—they usually deny the validity of self-baptism. Those who believe in baptismal regeneration correctly point out that although God alone takes away sin, God does not act alone when he takes away a person’s sins through baptism. Instead, God works through other believers who baptize on his behalf. The same principle applies when God uses a minister to forgive a person’s sins through confession.

Where does the Bible say all revelation ceased after the apostolic age?

Protestants claim that the word of God is confined to what is recorded in Scripture and that no new revelation was given after the last books of the Bible were written. Catholics agree that public revelation, or the deposit of faith, ceased after the death of the last apostolic man (this includes the apostles and their associates like Mark and Luke). We disagree, however, with the idea that this truth can be known from Scripture alone. Protestants who are skeptical of Sacred Tradition should ask why they believe in the cessation of divine revelation since Scripture does not explicitly address this issue.

Some have argued that this truth is described in Jude 3, which speaks of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” but this verse on its own cannot support the claim that public revelation has ceased. Protestant apologist John MacArthur says that the Greek word translated “delivered” in this verse “refers to an act completed in the past with no continuing element.” He also says the phrase “once for all” (Greek, hapax) means “nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered ‘once for all.’” This would mean that the “faith” had been delivered before Jude was written, which means Jude and its teaching about the cessation of public revelation would not have been a part of that original deposit of faith.

Arguments from Jude 3 also confuse “delivering the faith” with public revelation. Jesus gave “the faith” once and for all to the apostles, but the public revelation of that faith continued for decades after Jesus’ interactions with them during the writing of the New Testament. There isn’t any explicit biblical evidence that this revelation ceased after the death of the last apostle (or that it didn’t continue for centuries rather than decades).

Catholics agree with Protestants that this public revelation did cease in the apostolic Church. The Catechism says that “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (66). But Catholics believe this truth based on the trustworthiness of the Magisterium, which preserves God’s word in both its written (Scripture) and unwritten (Tradition) forms—not, as Protestants would have to believe, based on the clear teaching of the Bible alone.

So when Protestants ask, “Where is that in the Bible?”, you might charitably ask in reply, “Where does the Bible say everything we believe as Christians must be found in the Bible?” Then you could offer to share with them some other common Protestant beliefs that have their roots not in Scripture but in traditions—both sacred and human.”

Love,
Matthew

Bible is NEVER sola


Oral Torah = Tradition


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

Most Protestants have no problem with God’s Revelation taking more than one form

It must be recognized that most Protestants do not have a problem with the idea that God’s revelation can take more than one form.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (1:19–20).

Paul seems to be echoing the Old Testament book of Wisdom, which says, “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (13:5). All of this agrees with the psalmist, who declared that “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

Natural and Supernatural Revelation

Catholics and Protestants agree that God makes Himself known in ways outside of Scripture

So we see in Scripture itself that God reveals Himself (clearly and to all people) through his creation, apart from Scripture. Theologians call this kind of revelation natural (because it comes through nature) or general (because it is given to all people).

In contrast, revelation that is given by prophetic utterances or recorded in inspired writings is called supernatural (because it is direct communication from God) or special (because it is not available to all people without qualification).

Catholics and Protestants agree that these two modes of revelation are both legitimate and authoritative—at least in theory. In its two millennia on earth, the Catholic Church has developed many careful distinctions, one of them being to subdivide supernatural, public revelations into those originally written (Sacred Scripture) and unwritten (Sacred Tradition).

Catholics emphasize that all truth is “God’s truth” and therefore that no revelation can truly contradict another, whereas Protestants elevate the written form above the others. But Protestants will agree that God can and does reveal himself in ways outside the pages of the Bible.

In Principle Protestants Agree: God’s revelation comes to us in more than the written form.

The Importance of Interpretation

Language is a set of signs pointing to things in reality

An important thing to note here is that regardless of their source, written words need to be interpreted. Language is a set of signs (whether oral or written) pointing to things in reality. Therefore, our knowledge of reality will determine our interpretation of words.

When I say or write the word dog, English speakers will know what I mean because we have agreed that this word refers to the animal we all recognize as a dog.

That’s pretty straightforward, but language is not always that easy to understand. Dog can also refer to a person (usually, but not always, in a negative way) or it can be a word to modify a type of day in summer or express how tired I am. Aside from the challenge of words having multiple definitions, sometimes the same meaning is applied to distinct things in very specific ways.

For example, if I say, “My wife is a peach,” no one would suspect that I had married a fruit! Instinctively, they would compare what they know about peaches and women to what I had said and infer my actual meaning (“My wife is sweet”).

This is as true of the Bible as anything else. For example, the words of Scripture describe our planet as being circular (Isa. 40:22) and as having corners (Rev. 7:1). Because something cannot be both circular and cornered, it seems clear that one of these verses was meant to be taken metaphorically. But which one? One could argue from genre types or try to dig into the original Hebrew and Greek, but in our age it is much easier to consult natural revelation (simply look at the planet!).

Catholicism Affirms: God’s public, special revelation has come to us in written and unwritten form.

Love & His will, which is perfect,
Matthew

Early Church: before ~400 AD, Christianity w/out the Bible


-please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Catholic Answers

“Question:

I recently listened to a debate on sola scriptura between a Catholic apologist and a Baptist who runs an anti-Catholic organization. The Baptist claimed the Catholic Church did not decide the canon of the New Testament at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419). As proof he alluded to the Muratorian Fragment, saying that, since it was far older than those councils and since it contains the New Testament canon as we know it, the issue was obviously settled long before the Catholic Church made any decisions. Is it true?

Answer:

The Baptist fellow is wrong and misled the audience. The Muratorian Fragment (so-called because it represents only a portion of the actual second-century document discovered in 1740 by Lodovico Antonio Muratori), is the oldest extant listing of New Testament-era books revered by early Christians. It was written sometime between 155 and 200. Patristic scholars believe the unknown author originally wrote the list in Greek (since the Latin is very poor), but the oldest copy available is an eighth-century Latin manuscript.

Although the Muratorian Fragment is important in studying how the early Church developed the New Testament canon, it doesn’t give exactly the same list of books that was later adopted as canonical at the councils of Hippo and Carthage. The Muratorian Fragment is just that: a fragment of a larger list of books which were considered canonical or quasi-canonical during the second century.

The Fragment itself provides us with a good though incomplete idea of this early canon. Virtually the entire New Testament canon as we know it is represented but not all of it: the Gospels of Luke and John (preceded by what seems to be an allusion to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark), Acts, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, Jude, two letters of John (since the fragment simply says “the two ascribed to John,” we don’t know which two of his three letters are meant), and Revelation.

The unknown author adds other non-canonical books to this lineup but makes clear these were not considered part of the canon: the so-called Pauline Epistles to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians (about which the Fragment’s author expresses his conviction that they were not authored by Paul), the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Shepherd of Hermas). The Fragment’s list is cut short abruptly with a final, enigmatic phrase which may indicate that the author had gone on to include still other non-inspired writings: “Those also who wrote the new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the founder of the Asian Cataphrygians.”

As you can see, although the Muratorian Fragment lists most of the New Testament books, it’s missing a few (e.g. James, one of John’s epistles, most likely 3 John), and it also adds the book of Wisdom as canonical, which is very interesting from a Catholic perspective.

These facts demonstrate that, although the Fragment came close, it did not represent the actual canon of inspired Scripture. Further, there is no internal evidence in the document that it sought to represent any kind of official canon that was regarded by the Church as binding.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired.

It was not until the Synod of Rome under Pope Damasus in A.D. 382, followed by the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, that the Catholic Church defined, albeit non-infallibly, which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. Probably the council fathers studied the (complete) Muratorian Fragment and other documents, including, of course, the books in question themselves, but it was not until these Councils that the Church officially settled the issue.

The plain fact of the matter is that the canon of the Bible was not settled in the first years of the Church. It was settled only after repeated (and perhaps heated) discussions, and the final listing was determined by the pope and Catholic bishops. This is an inescapable fact, no matter how many people wish to escape from it.”


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“When a skeptic argues against the Bible, he is usually not attacking the book but the ideas in the book. Skeptics are not really concerned about how many generations there are between Adam and Jesus or how many angels were at Jesus’ tomb. It is Christianity that concerns them (and hence the New Testament in particular). Since many Christians and skeptics alike consider the Bible to be the foundation of Christianity, to call its historicity, manuscript transmission, scientific accuracy, etc. into question is to call Christianity into question.

Defenses of Christianity, then, often either begin or conclude with a defense of the Bible. But what if the trustworthiness of the Bible could not be satisfactorily defended?

I don’t think this is the case, but it is worth thinking about for at least these two reasons: 1) most skeptics think the Bible has not been defended sufficiently, and 2) the case for Christianity will be even stronger if it can survive the failure of these popular methods. If the defense of Christianity is not coextensive with that of the Bible, then attacks on the latter can’t be used against the former.

I would argue that even if we lost the Bible completely, Christianity would remain undefeated. Therefore, the defeat of the Bible would not entail the defeat of Christianity.

How can we be sure of this?

First, Christianity preceded the Christian Bible. The New Testament writings did not begin until at least a decade after Christ started the Church, yet those who believed were Christians and therefore constituted the Church (1 Cor. 1:2 cf. 15:1-5).

Second, Christianity continued to exist without most of its members possessing the New Testament. Even after the New Testament started to be written and copied, its contents were not in the possession of the average believer. Even literate Christians would have to wait 1,500 years or so, when the printing press made bibles widely accessible. Even in our own time, people from many parts of the world become Christians when the Bible is forbidden or inaccessible in their own language. Yet Christianity has spread across the globe. It is possible, then, that Christianity’s message could have been communicated only orally through the ages.

Third, suppose some atheistic world dictator had every copy of the Bible destroyed and somehow made it impossible to create any future copies or to publish it online. Would Christianity disappear from the Earth? Of course not.

Before the New Testament was canonized, Christianity existed. Before it was completed, Christianity existed. Before its writing had even commenced, Christianity existed. It is, therefore, both a theoretical and a historical fact that Christianity can exist while no Bible exists.

All right, you ask: if the Bible is not necessary for Christianity’s existence, how would we know what Christianity teaches? As it turns out, we can find out pretty much everything necessary from a multitude of extra-biblical historical sources. These include:

  • Catechetical instructions (e.g., The Didache, first century)
  • Sermon messages (e.g., 1-2 Clement, A.D. 95-97)
  • Early epistles (e.g., Letters of Ignatius, A.D. 98-117)
  • Baptismal confessions (e.g., The Old Roman Creed, second to third century)
  • Bible commentaries (e.g., Theophilus’s, or the Diatessaron, second to third century)
  • Liturgical instructions (e.g., Liturgy of St. James or St. Basil, fourth century)
  • Authoritative pronouncements (e.g., ecumenical councils, canons, creeds, and definitions, fourth to fifth century).

We can see, then, that the content of Christianity, and thus most of the issues skeptics have with it, would remain even if the Bible was taken out of the equation. At a minimum, it is clear that the message that brought people into Christianity was from the very beginning that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died, was buried, and rose again. This was the message the apostles died for, the message the early Church was persecuted for, and that two centuries later brought the greatest empire on Earth to its knees.

So, ultimately, it is not the Bible but the historic Christian Church (which gave the world the canonical scriptures and their orthodox interpretation) that skeptics must defeat in order to bring Christianity down. This puts the Catholic apologist in a much stronger position than the Protestant, who must build his defense on the trustworthiness of just part of the Church’s tradition while rejecting others.

Now, this is not a reductionist attempt to shield the Bible from legitimate criticism, and or a suggestion that we should abandon defense of the Bible. There is no need! The evidential arguments for the reliability of the Bible are extremely strong (so much so that if they are thought to fail the Bible, then, to be consistent, the rest of ancient history goes with it). If nothing else, it is difficult to imagine that God would bother inspiring hundreds of pages of communication only to have it lost or corrupted before it could be disseminated!

Still less is this an attempt to downplay the importance of the Bible for Catholics. The Church holds Sacred Scripture in the highest regard—reveres it, exhorts all believers to read it deeply.

Rather, it is good simply to realize that, even without the Bible, Christianity endures. This allows us, as circumstances may demand, to benefit from a different apologetic focus: to move from defending the Bible to defending the Church that produced it. This approach neatly sidesteps issues of biblical inspiration, transmission, inerrancy, and infallibility and opens the door to more accessible and accepted pieces of evidence. The skeptic’s target becomes both smaller and more difficult to hit—all without threat to Christianity’s teachings (which are, after all, the skeptic’s real prey).

Finally, lest someone think this is some sneaky Catholic sleight of hand, even the sixteenth-century Protestant scholar William Whitaker reluctantly admitted:

“I confess that the divine Providence can preserve from destruction whatever it chooses; . . . . we may, in the same manner, infer that there is no need of the scriptures, that everything should be trusted to divine Providence, and nothing committed to writing, because God can preserve religion safe without the scriptures.”

Love,
Matthew

Depositum fidei: how Scripture & Tradition work together


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).

“Catholicism teaches that the doctrines contained in Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition (the Church) are authoritative because God’s revelation is the source of both. The Catechism puts it this way: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the word of God” (97).

This means that “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (82).

To some Protestants, this might sound blasphemous. The idea that anything the Church says could be on the same level as Scripture just doesn’t make sense. After all, only the Bible was inspired by God, right? How, then, can Catholics say that both must be reverenced equally?

More importantly, what happens if they come into conflict? The Protestant, in principle, does not face these difficulties because the Bible is said to hold the supreme place. As the ultimate and final level of religious authority, according to sola scriptura, when the Bible comes into conflict with any other authority it must be declared the winner.

“Where Is That in the Bible?”

Protestants hold to subtly different forms of sola scriptura. At one end of the spectrum, it is thought to mean that only the Bible may be trusted as a source for faith and practice—and so everything the Christian believes must be explicitly found in it. On the other end, it means that the Bible is simply the most trustworthy source, and so no teachings can explicitly contradict it.

Protestants’ objections to Catholic claims about Sacred Tradition will vary depending on which version of sola scriptura they hold. Some will argue that any addition of Tradition to the Bible is illicit, others will only see a problem if a particular tradition goes against Scripture. Either way, though Protestants are generally uncomfortable with an authoritative, big-T Church Tradition because they think it threatens the authority of Scripture.

Some Catholic assume that by sola scriptura Protestants mean anything not found in the Bible is off-limits for Christian faith and practice. This is not what it originally meant, but it is the way the principle is often understood by those on the more Fundamentalist end of the spectrum.

Most Protestants, though, realize that to hold such a position would be self-defeating. This is because if one believes that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible, then the teaching that everything a Christian is to believe or practice must be taught in the Bible must be taught in the Bible—but it isn’t.

Although some apologists for this more extreme version of sola scriptura may point to verses such as 2 Timothy 2:16-17—which says that all Scripture is inspired and useful—for support, such appeals to prooftexts are unconvincing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say clearly that Scripture alone is the source for all Christian faith and practice. Thus, Protestants who hold to any form of sola scriptura thereby show that at least one Christian belief (or two, if you include the canon) can be derived from something besides the Bible itself.

In Principle, Protestants Agree: Not everything that Christians are to believe must be taught explicitly in Scripture.

In Particular, Catholicism Affirms: Some things that Christians are to believe have been taught outside of Scripture.

REFLECT: Since it is practically unavoidable to believe things that are not taught in Scripture, how do we discern between them?”

Love & Christian unity,
Matthew

Biblical non-biblical traditions

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

“We don’t even have to appeal to extra-Biblical doctrines or events to find accord with Protestants on the validity of extra-Biblical traditions—we can just use Scripture. In the New Testament, there are numerous affirmations of extra-Biblical traditions:

  • – The Old Testament does not name the magicians in Egypt who tried to discredit Moses, but Paul calls them Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim 3:8).
  • – Jude expects his readers to be aware that Michael the Archangel disputed with Satan over the body of Moses (verse 9) and that Enoch prophesied Christ (verse 14), but these stories are found nowhere else in Scripture.
  •  – The writer of the book of Hebrews 11:37 talks about Old Testament saints being sawn in half for their faith—but he didn’t get this from the Old Testament.

And it is not just New Testament references to the Old Testament that seem to go beyond the Bible. In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”—yet Jesus is not recorded as having said this anywhere in the Gospels.

It seems apparent that the New Testament writers were not afraid to reference extra-biblical traditions.

This does not, of course, raise extra-biblical traditions to the level of inspiration—but it does show that unwritten traditions can be infallibly affirmed.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by Scripture).

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: Traditions not recorded in Scripture can be infallibly affirmed (by the Church).

It is not uncommon to hear Protestants complain that Catholics added unbiblical traditions to what the Bible teaches. Sometimes they will even cite scriptures that disparage man-made traditions (e.g., Matthew 15:3–6). Doesn’t holding to traditions not taught by the Bible nullify the word of God?

The first thing to note here is that there is a big difference between something being non-biblical and it being anti-Biblical. Owning a cell phone is non-Biblical; worshipping an idol is anti-Biblical. Simply not appearing in the Bible doesn’t make something false. Moreover, numerous facets of Protestant worship are based on a denomination’s tradition rather than anything affirmed or commanded in Scripture.

For example, the idea of youth pastors, worship bands, meeting in Church buildings, or sitting in pews has no explicit support in Scripture. Most Protestants, however, recognize that not all Christian beliefs and practices are spelled out in the Bible. They realize that there is development and religious thought and that these sometimes lead to affirmations that, though extra-Biblical, are nonetheless authoritative.

To believe otherwise would be to reject the Church’s explanation of the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea, or the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it would threaten Protestantism itself, which is a development that did not come to exist until the sixteenth century. The real problem, then, comes when a religious group teaches something that is contrary to the Bible.

IN PRINCIPLE Protestants Agree: We can affirm beliefs and practices that aren’t explicit in Scripture but developed over time.

IN PARTICULAR Catholicism Affirms: The Church can teach doctrine and prescribe practices that aren’t explicitly found in Scripture but developed over time.”

Love,
Matthew