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Chapter 10

The Roman Catholic Attitude Toward Scripture

 

At the outset it must be made clear that Catholics are not "Bible Christians."

We do not profess faith in the Bible, but in Jesus Christ and His church, and its teachings. Catholic Answers to "Bible Christians," 6

Thus the lines of distinction are drawn between Protestants and Roman Catholics. For Protestants, the Holy Scriptures are the only authoritative teachings of Jesus; the teachings of the church are valid only as they conform with the written Word.

Jesus Himself set us an example of the all-sufficiency of the Word. Upon the day of the resurrection, He joined Cleopas, one of His faithful followers, and another devout Christian on their journey to Emmaus. Both friends were utterly dejected as they discussed Jesusí execution two days earlier.

And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. Luke 24:19-21

Jesusí response to their dismay is instructive to all Christians.

O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

In the minds of many, Jesusí approach to the dilemma of the two friends seems curious, for it was only later as He sat at supper with them and blessed the food that

their eyes were opened, and they knew him. Luke 24:31

Surely the most convincing evidence that Jesus could have offered of His resurrection was His appearance in person. But was it? In this episode, Jesus taught implicitly that our eyes are not always reliable witnesses of truth. The devil can deceive as he did when he brought "Samuel" before King Saul. Was that sound evidence of Samuelís immortality?

When we studied psychology at Avondale College under Dr. Gordon McDowell, he told us of attending the American Amateur Magiciansí Championship. The winnerís act was deceptively simple, yet none of the professional magicians, called upon to judge the event, could discern the trickery employed. The young man simply strolled onto the stage whistling. Then he suddenly shot up the thumb of his right hand, and a live canary sat happily upon it. He continued his whistling until each of his ten fingers, one by one, was found to have a canary perched upon it. The magician then produced a cage and placed all ten canaries in the small cage. They enthusiastically flew about in it like any such birds are bound to do. The magician continued his whistling holding the cage with its birds between his hands, in clear view of the audience. Suddenly he clapped his hands together and the cage and all ten birds disappeared before their eyes.

On the visual evidence, the birds had come from nowhere and with the cage had returned to the invisible realm. But was it so? Of course not. It was indeed a very clever trick, but the audienceís eyes had deceived them.

Jesus well knew that our faith must be established on firmer evidence than our visual images. It was only after He had proved the authenticity of the crucifixion and the resurrection events from Scripture that Christ revealed Himself to these followers. It is little wonder that they were to testify:

Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? Luke 24:32

Peter correctly recognized that the testimony of the Word of God was far more certain than even the evidence of what his eyes had seen and his ears had heard.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:16-19

Roman Catholics have not altered their attitude toward Scripture. In 1954, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, a fiercely Roman Catholic organization, made the bold claim that the Bible does not believe itself to be inspired or to be the complete Word of God; and that there is only one place in the world where you can be sure to prove the Bible is true and that is through the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Church (stated in Collierís Magazine, September 17, 1954). Apparently, the Knights of Columbus are so ignorant of the words of the Bible that they are unaware that it does present powerful testimony of its own inspiration. It testifies:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God. 2 Timothy 3:16

Further, the Bible plainly indicates that it is the complete Word of God and that nothing else is required, for it warns:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. Revelation 22:18

Protestants, on the other hand, accept the biblical assurance that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide the worshiper in his discovery of the true meaning of Godís Holy Word.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. John 16:13

Nowhere does Scripture delegate this right to the church. Any student of history can trace the dismal results of following the papal philosophy of biblical interpretation. In the days of Jesus, Godís church claimed to be the sole interpreter of the Word. This view was implicit in the question posed concerning Jesusó

How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? John 7:15

In answer to this question Jesus enunciated the principle of individual Bible interpretation.

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17

When the leading light of the early Christian Church, the apostle Paul, explained his interpretation of Scripture to the believers in Berea, they refused to accept his words without confirming them by personal study. Rather than heaping condemnation upon them for following this procedure, it is recorded concerning the Bereans:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

In both Old Testament and New Testament times, men were admonished to study Godís Word for themselves.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4

Never did God place the interpretation of Scriptures in the province of the church. So sacred are the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit alone holds the key to their understanding. When the church has usurped this divine prerogative it has inevitably provided a fertile ground for the proclamation of damnable error. The Jewish Church perverted Sabbathkeeping by its dictates. It taught the law from a legalistic viewpoint which favored the church but removed from Godís people the joy of their salvation.

So too the Roman Catholic Church, usurping Godís authority, has interpreted Scripture to teach the infallibility of the pope, the immortality of the soul, the Immaculate Conception, the efficacy of the seven sacraments, confession of sins to men, idol worship, the veneration of the "saints," purgatory, limbo, infant baptism, penance, the Mass, and a whole host of associated heresies. Truly, the track record of ecclesiastical interpretation of Scripture is a poor one indeed.

In contrast, humble men of God, searching the Scriptures under the power of the Holy Ghost, founded the Reformation, the Methodist Revival, and the great Advent movement of the nineteenth century. None of these mighty reformatory movements which shook the world could have been based upon interpretations propounded by church authority, for such is not the province of the church. The duty of church leaders is to encourage private Bible study and prayer, to preach the Word, admonishing the flock to personally verify that which is spoken, to condemn sin, and to uplift Jesus as our Saviour. It is its duty to organize the proclamation of the three angelsí messages to every corner of the earth.

This responsibility does not mean a loose organization consisting of men and women of great variations of belief. The Holy Spirit does not guide one into truth and others into various errors. The Holy Spirit is designated as the Spirit of Truth. He alone can guide into truth. Contrary to speculation, when each believer asserts his God-ordained right to discover Bible truth for himself, unity will prevail and the church will be vibrant. Deeper truths will be discovered and shared as each believer utilizes the power of divine insight freely available from the Holy Spirit. No course would more effectively eliminate the spiritual stagnation of credalism than a church buoyant with members freely studying Godís Word to discover more and more of Godís plan for their lives.

Typical of the acquisition of truth which comes from personal Bible study under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the faith of William Tracy, a former High Sheriff of the County of Glouchestershire in England. Tracy, a devout Roman Catholic, had nevertheless studied William Tyndaleís translation of Scripture. Before his death in 1530, Tracy wrote in his will a profound view of the Bible truths he had found in Scripture, which were quite contrary to the multitudinous errors taught by his church. He had discovered justification by faith, the fallacy of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the mediatorial ministry of Christ, and many other truths still condemned by Roman Catholics. In part his will read:

First and before all things, I commit myself to God and to His mercy, believing, without any doubt or mistrust that by His grace, and the merits of Jesus Christ, and by virtue of His passion and His resurrection, I have and shall have remission of all my sins, and resurrection of body and soul according as it is written, I believe that my Redeemer liveth, and that in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and in my flesh shall see my Saviour: this my hope is laid up in my bosom. And touching the health of my soul, the faith that I have taken and rehearsed is sufficient (as I suppose) without any other manís works or merits. My ground of belief is, that there is but one God and one Mediator between God and man, which is Jesus Christ; so that I accept none in heaven or in earth to be mediator between me and God, but only Jesus Christ: and therefore will I bestow no part of my goods for that intent that any man should say or do to help my soul: for therein I trust only to the promises of Christ: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." As touching the burying of my body, it availeth me not whatsoever be done thereto; for . . . the funeral pomps are rather the solace of them that live, than the wealth and comfort of them that are dead. And touching the distribution of my temporal goods, my purpose is, by the grace of God, to bestow them to be accepted as the fruits of faith; so that I do not suppose that my merit shall be by the good bestowing of them, but my merit is the faith of Jesus Christ only, by whom such works are good .  . . and ever we should consider that true saying, that a good work maketh not a good man, but a good man maketh a good work; for faith maketh a man both good and righteous; for a righteous man liveth by faith, and whatsoever springeth not of faith is sin. Witness mine own hand the tenth of October in the twenty-second year of the reign of King Henry the Eighth. Quoted in Merle DíAubignť, The Reformation in England, vol. 2, 69-70

Perhaps this superb testimony of faith would be incomplete if we were not to record that like John Wycliffeís, William Tracyís bones were exhumed and burnt two years after his death on the order of the Roman Catholic primate of England. Such foolishness not only demonstrated Roman Catholic intolerance of truth, but also emphasized the paucity of Bible truth espoused by those who permitted the Church to guide their interpretation of Scripture.

Worse still, the Roman Catholic Church has ever upheld the corrupted manuscripts of the Bible and included seven non-canonical books in their bible. It has done so because

The Catholic Church has always encouraged the faithful to read the Bible, but at the same time she reserved and reserves the right to see that translations are in accordance with her tradition and her faith. Catholic Answers to "Bible" Christians, 7

Thus when Roman Catholic literature speaks well of the modern translations of Scripture, this fact alone should serve as a stern warning to those who wish to uphold these translations before Godís people as the standard Word of God. The condemnation and rejection of the King James Version by the Roman Catholic Church serves as one of the most powerful testimonies of its validity.

 


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