Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is Roman Catholicism Christian? Part 2

Rome and Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura -- The teaching that the Scriptures contain all that is necessary for salvation and proper living before God; that scripture alone is the final authority in matters of faith (the content of our belief: i.e. what we believe) and practice (the outworking of our belief: i.e. how we live.)

I’ve got to admit that I’ve been having a little trouble writing this post. Not because it is difficult to show that the Roman Catholic Church denies sola Scriptura, but because it’s too easy. It’s like beating a baby seal; you just feel bad doing it.

Rome’s position is crystal clear. Rome doesn’t deny denying sola Scriptura. In fact, they deny that sola Scriptura is a proper doctrine. Sola Scriptura, Rome says, is not taught in the Bible, and was not taught by the Apostles. So, just what is Rome’s stance on the scriptures?

Rome teaches that, in addition to the scriptures, the Apostles also gave to the bishops “their own position of teaching authority.” Here is the pertinent section from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

[76] In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: - orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit"; - in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".

[77] "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority." Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."

[78] This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer."

Did you catch that in paragraph 78? All of the church’s doctrine and beliefs result from tradition, not scripture. That’s why, while Protestants say, “the Bible says,” Catholics say, “the Church teaches.” Lip service is given to the Bible, of course, but the Church is the only infallible interpreter of what the Bible really means. That means that what the Church says has more actual authority then what is written in the Bible. Remember, Rome used to burn people alive for the crime of translating the Bible so that people would be able to read it for themselves.

Rome doesn’t teach sola Scriptura. Instead, what Rome teaches is sola Ecclesia: that the Church in the Magesterium (the teaching office of the Pope together with the Bishops) contains all that is necessary for salvation and proper living before God.

So, is Rome right? Does the Bible teach sola Scriptura? Or did God establish an infallible Magesterium to propagate proper belief? If so, why write a book at all?

The first Psalm tells us that it is the “Law of Yahweh,” not the teachings of the Magesterium on which the blessed man meditates “day and night.” Paul told Timothy that it is the inspired Scriptures, not tradition, that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Now, I can’t tell you how many words from Rome I’ve read over the last few days that explain how sola Scriptura is a “false doctrine.” (See this or this, for example.) Many, many words to explain away the clear teaching of God-breathed Scripture.

Here’s how I see the problem with Rome’s “infallible Magesterium.” It isn’t taught anywhere in scripture. Instead, scripture warns repeatedly to be on guard against false teachers. In fact, Paul warns us of false teachers arising from within the leadership of the church herself! So, if the Bible does not teach an infallible Magesterium, but actually teaches that church leadership itself can (and will) contain false teachers, should we not be concerned by those who do teach sola Ecclesia?

Rome denies sola Scriptura at great cost and peril.

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