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Bible and the Church

Fundamentalist position:

"The Bible alone is our sole and exclusive authority. It is the only form in which we find the word of God binding for believers today."

Catholic Position Regarding Scripture

Vatican II Chapter 6 of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church:"
"The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the Body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the Bread of Life from the table both of God's Word and of Christ's Body."

"She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with Sacred Tradition as the supreme rule of Faith since, as inspired by God, and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the Word of God Himself without change."

"the Voice of the Holy Spirit resounds in the words of the prophets and the Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all of the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred
Scripture. For in the Sacred Books, the Father who is in Heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them."

We as God's children hear the voice of our Father speaking to us from Heaven, through living oracles, so that we might develop a more intimate friendship with Christ. That's the purpose for Sacred Scripture as the Church teaches it.

St. Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church:
"All troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not by clear and sound knowledge and serious  consideration penetrate into the truths of Sacred Scripture."

Challenges From Scripture and the Church

Hebrews 4:12
"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Matthew chapter 22:29
Jesus declares in speaking to the Sadducees, "You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God."  We need the Spirit of Christ to illuminate the text to make it meaningful for us today. We have to read the Bible, but we have to read it in the Church and with the Church and for the Church, because the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures and illuminates them for our understanding is the Soul of the Mystical Body.

Scriptural Evidence for Bible Christians Regarding the Necessity of the Church

Matthew 16, 17-19
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my Church."
Christ can do the greatest with the least. If he can take a man as fickle as Peter was when he was Simon and establish the Church upon Simon, then we can be sure that no matter how bad a pope is, Christ will maintain His Church.

First Timothy 3:15
"the household of God which is the Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of truth."
The pillar and foundation of truth is the Church.

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus command any of His apostles to write a single word. He says, "Go out and preach the Gospel." Scripture exalts Jesus' intention to build a Church, to send out apostles who are to preach, that is, communicate God's Word person to person in an oral way which is far more
dynamic and interpersonal than simply  what's on a page.

Notice that even when the apostles do write, how many of them write? four or five apostles, out of the twelve writing books. They understood Christ's commission, and in it there is nothing explicit about
writing Scripture. The Word of God is to be proclaimed, it is to be communicated orally and also in a literary mode as well. But what is primary and foremost in Christ's mind and in His words, as Scripture attests, is preaching the Word of God.

2 Timothy 2:2
"What you've heard from me, before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." It's an oral transmission.  How much do you write down for your children when you teach them? More is caught than is taught, and when you communicate orally, you communicate
more effectively than when you write because you can put your whole person behind it.

Titus 1:5
"That is why I left you in Crete: that you might amend what was defective and appoint elders in every town."  Paul's concern is for the Church and for the magisterium of the Church, for the presbyters, for the priesthood, for the hierarchy.

The Church comes before the New Testament. The first time we have an official collection of the New Testament books is at the Council of  Hippo (393 AD), and then in 397 at the Council of Carthage.

Luke chapter 10:16
Jesus sends out the apostles and He says, "He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you rejects me." So the apostles go forth with the very authority of Christ.

John chapter 14:26
Jesus promises the apostles that He will send them the Holy Spirit who "will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."

John chapter 21:25
"There are many other things which Jesus did... the world itself could not contain the books."

Acts chapter 2:42
"They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching," not in writing but in their preaching.

Act chapter 8:31
Here the Ethiopian eunuch says to Philip, "How can I understand the Scripture unless someone guides me?"

Acts chapter 20:35
Here we discover Paul referring to a saying of Jesus that we've all heard since our childhood: "'Tis more blessed to give than to receive.'"
How then did Paul know that Jesus said it? (It's not in the Gospels.Because oral tradition is maintained in the Church through the Holy Spirit.
Romans chapter 10:17
"Faith comes from what is heard."

Second Thessalonians chapter 2:15
"Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught by us either by word of mouth or by writing."

First Peter chapter 1:25
"The Word of the Lord abides forever and that Word is the Good News which was preached to you." What is the Word of God? That which has been handed down through the preaching of the apostles and their successors. As Catholic Christians, we are bound to God's Word and God's Word alone.
Not sola Scriptura; That's "anti-Scriptura," but Solum verbum Dei, the Word of God alone. What is the Word? It is the Good News that was preached to you. Certainly it is also the Word of God contained in the inspired Scriptures.

2 Peter chapter 3 verse 15.
"There are some things in them," that is, the writings of Paul, "that are hard to understand,"
which, even back in the first century, Peter says,"the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction as they do with the other Scriptures." So in every age there are people who are  unstable in their beliefs, who trust themselves more than the Church that Christ built, and who say, "The Holy Spirit guides me." But they fail to hear Jesus say that the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles and their successors first and foremost to guide them "into all that I've taught you." If we want to follow the Word of God, if we want to obey  Sacred Scripture, if we want to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, then become slaves to Mother Church and learn whatever She teaches. Listen to whatever She declares. That's what it means to be a Bible Christian.

Other Arguments for the Necessity of the Church

Sola Scriptura is unscriptural. We've also said that sola Scriptura is unhistorical; that is, the New Testament Church comes before the New Testament books. The New Testament Church leaders are the writers who penned the New Testament books. The successors to the apostles at the Council of Hippo and the Council of Carthage are the ones who compiled the New Testament.

If Bible Christians hold up the New Testament and say "These 27 books are the only authority." You ask them, "Where did you get those 27 books, why those and not others? Why do you take the decision of Catholic bishops, meeting in Catholic Councils back in the 4th century? Why do you take that at face value? Why do you assume that the Holy Spirit led them to declare what books are inspired, when those same Bishops teach the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the veneration of Saints, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Purgatory, seven sacraments and so on? Why do you think the Spirit guided them with the 27 books, but didn't guide them everywhere else?" How arbitrary can you get? That's illogical, it's unhistorical, it's contrary to Scripture. We can also show how impractical it is.

What would happen to our country if the Founding Fathers left us with a Constitution and then made the closing utterance, "May the spirit of George Washington guide all citizens in interpreting the
Constitution."? We would have more than fifty states; we'd have fifty million states. We'd be in an utter state of chaos and anarchy. If the Founding Fathers of our country knew better, don't you think that the
founding Father of the Church knew better also?

The Spirit can preserve fallible men from teaching error as truth. The Bible Christian believes that fallible sinners like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could communicate infallible truth through
the Holy Spirit. Can't that same Spirit guide the Church to infallibly proclaim that same truth in all generations? And if the Spirit doesn't, then wouldn't you expect chaos and anarchy? Isn't that what we  have now with thousands upon thousands of denominations and sects, so that in every generation Bible Christians have to reinvent the wheels of the Faith? The Trinity is being questioned now by some Bible evangelicals. The Divinity of Christ, the eternality of Hell, and many other doctrines that have always been part of the historic Christian faith are up  for grabs in every generation in the teachings of Bible Christians. Because they have the Bible without the Church, they are going to lose both as well.

written with many thanks to our favorite professor of  theology, Dr. Scott Hahn


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