This is a counter-reply to a response to my best-selling pamphlet for Our Sunday Visitor, Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked, by Church of Christ preacher Kevin Cauley. His words will be in blue. Words from my pamphlet will be in green.
Complete Five-Part Series:
Part II: Tradition / Papacy
Part IV: Mary / Eucharist
Part V: Salvation (+ Purgatory Again)
I. “Are your beliefs found in the Bible?”
1. Quotes from the Catholics Beliefs
1) They say, “It is not necessary for everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, because that is not a teaching of Scripture itself.”
“They” also wrote, in “their” preceding sentence (the first one of the section): “All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by indirect indication.” By not including this, it is made to appear that Catholics are less concerned with a biblical basis for their beliefs than they are.
2) They say, “Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition.”
I also cited 1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 3:6, 2 Tim 1:13-14 and 2:2, and Acts 15:1-29 — the latter about the Jerusalem Council, which made binding decrees. I could easily cite much more biblical evidence on this, and have done so, in many papers. Remember, I had one or two paragraphs to cover a very complex subject, which (in this section alone) includes Tradition, the role of the teaching Church, sola Scriptura as a rule of faith, perspicuity (clearness) of Scripture, material sufficiency of Scripture, formal sufficiency of Scripture, hermeneutics and exegesis, private judgment, the place of councils, bishops, apostolic succession, etc.
Mr. Cauley doesn’t even adequately address the arguments I did briefly present, and ignored several of them. Thus, his paper can hardly qualify as a “refutation.” For many many papers on this multi-faceted topic, see the articles listed on my Bible and Tradition Index Page.
3) They say, “The very books of the Bible had to be determined by the Church, and that didn’t happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, human tradition and authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible today.”
The relationship of the Church to the canon of the Bible is another complex subject. We do not believe that the Church created the Scripture. Its role was to confirm what was and wasn’t Scripture (the process of canonization). That’s what I was referring to above, by speaking of “the books” being “determined” (canonization), not the Bible (as inspired revelation) being some kind of fiat creation by the (Catholic) Church, as if the latter were superior to it. See my paper: The Canon of Scripture: Did the Catholic Church Create It Or Merely Authoritatively Acknowledge It?
Christian Tradition and Church authority were (indisputably) needed to declare the canon. Church of Christ theology has, therefore, a huge problem of how they get their Bible in the first place. They accept no authoritative institutions at all and claim to go from the Bible alone (they do so in an extreme solo Scriptura fashion). The dilemma, then — which faces all Protestants, but this particular brand even more so, because of its severe anti-institutionalism and anti-traditionalism — is that they cannot arrive at an authoritative list of biblical books in the Bible itself, because it isn’t found in Holy Scripture.
Thus, Bible alone as a means to truth cannot resolve this particular question at all. Some form of Christian Tradition must be appealed to. Since Church of Christ “methodology” is dead-set against this, they have no way to arrive at the Bible itself from within their own paradigm: the very Scripture that supposedly solves all questions in and of itself without some divinely-instituted human Christian authority. They have to either live with this glaring deficiency or change their means of arriving at all truth.
2. The Bible says,
1) That it is clear and understandable. Ephesians 3:3-5 “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;”
By and large the Bible is clear and understandable, but not always, without the aid of some authority or interpretive framework. If it were so clear, then Protestants would not have all the disagreements that divide them, while all appeal to the same “clear” Scripture. It’s too simple to claim that all such division is due to sin, rather than an inadequate principle. In other passages, the Bible indicates that one cannot always arrive at its truths easily and individually (one must interpret all related passages together in harmony, not pull out a few which seem to fit in with one’s preconceived notions):
In Nehemiah 8:1-8, Ezra read the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and “who helped the people to understand the law.” Much earlier, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). In Nehemiah 8:8 we learn that “they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
So the people did indeed understand the law (Neh 8:12), but not without much assistance — not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself, but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc. The Old Testament teaches about a binding Tradition and need for authoritative interpreters, as does the New Testament:
Acts 8:27-28, 30-31 And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch . . . seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah . . . So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?”
2 Peter 1:20 . . . no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.
2 Peter 3:15-16 . . . So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him . . . There are some things in them [Paul’s letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
Mark 4:33-34 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Mr. Cauley has given us one proof text which he believes “proves” perspicuity. I have given six that indicate that the Bible is not always clear, and requires authoritative interpretation.
2) Tradition is not a source of religious authority. Mark 7:9 Jesus says, “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”
As usual, the solo Scriptura variety of Protestants think that Tradition is a “dirty word,” as if the Bible always refers to it in a negative sense. I have already listed five passages of Paul where he takes a positive view of Tradition. Isn’t that sufficient? Here are a few of the relevant passages (RSV):
1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.
2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me . . . guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Jude 3 . . . contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
[cf. Acts 2:42, which mentions “the apostles’ teaching”]
Protestants often quote the verses in the Bible where corrupt traditions of men are condemned (e.g., Matt 15:2-6, Mk 7:8-13, Col 2:8), as if this is the whole ball of wax. But note that in each of those three passages, “tradition-as-bad” is qualified. It’s not all traditions whatsoever which are bad things, but only false traditions. Thus, in Matthew 15:3 Jesus refers to “your tradition” (i.e., “that which you oppose to the commandments of God” — which is another tradition, rightly understood, going back to Moses).
So the biblical dynamic isn’t “inherently corrupt, false tradition vs. the infallible Bible.” Rather, it is “true, biblical, apostolic tradition vs. false traditions of men which contradict both Bible and true Tradition.” In Mr. Cauley’s own quote above from Mark 7:9, we see the exact same description: “your own tradition.” Colossians 2:8 (bracketed remarks serving as clarifying commentary) is no different: “. . . according to [merely] human tradition . . . and not according to [the tradition of] Christ.” But Paul obviously does not rule out all tradition, as we see in the passages above this paragraph. Mr. Cauley is dead-wrong. Tradition certainly is a “source of religious authority.” And so is the Church.
3) That the “traditions” that 2 Thess. 2:15 speaks about are the authoritative apostolic traditions.
Exactly! But this admission contradicts what Mr. Cauley just stated in his #2 above, because apostolic tradition is certainly authoritative, as it proceeds from the apostles, who had great authority.
Acts 2:42 “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles? doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
That’s right; more tradition. These doctrines were being followed, and Christians were bound to them long before the New Testament was ever compiled.
4) That the Holy Spirit determined what is scripture, not the Catholic church. 1 Corinthians 2:13 “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
Correct; we wholeheartedly agree with this, as clarified above.
II. “Why do you Obey the Pope?”
1. Catholicism says,
1) “Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of the Church.” They cite Matthew 16:18-19 to support this.
2) “A pope can make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. . . . We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church and its head from error.” They cite John 14:16 to support this.
2. The Bible says,
1) Matthew 16:18-19 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
2) Who was the rock? The rock is Jesus, not Peter. He is the foundation–1 Corinthians 3:11; He is the rock–1 Corinthians 10:4; He is the corner stone–Ephesians 2:20.
Of course He is, but Peter also is in a lesser sense. Jesus was the one Who named him that. Current NT scholarly consensus holds that Peter was the rock spoken of in Matthew 16. Mr. Cauley’s view isn’t even the main one taken historically by Protestants, who viewed the “rock” as Peter’s faith, and not he himself (actually, the Catholic perspective would allow someone to believe it is both; they don’t contradict each other). For example, note the statements of two highly-regarded Protestant commentators today:
On the basis of the distinction between ‘petros’ . . . and ‘petra’ . . . , many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Peter is a mere ‘stone,’ it is alleged; but Jesus himself is the ‘rock’ . . . Others adopt some other distinction . . . Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretation, it is doubtful whether many would have taken ‘rock’ to be anything or anyone other than Peter . . .
The Greek makes the distinction between ‘petros’ and ‘petra’ simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine ‘petra’ could not very well serve as a masculine name . . .
Had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been ‘lithos’ (‘stone’ of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun – and that is just the point! . . .
In this passage Jesus is the builder of the church and it would be a strange mixture of metaphors that also sees him within the same clauses as its foundation . . . (D. A. Carson; in Frank E. Gaebelein, General editor, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1984, vol. 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke [Matthew: D. A. Carson], 368)
Jesus now sums up Peter’s significance in a name, Peter . . . It describes not so much Peter’s character (he did not prove to be ‘rock-like’ in terms of stability or reliability), but his function, as the foundation-stone of Jesus’ church. The feminine word for ‘rock’, ‘petra’, is necessarily changed to the masculine ‘petros’ (stone) to give a man’s name, but the word-play is unmistakable (and in Aramaic would be even more so, as the same form ‘kepha’ would occur in both places). It is only Protestant overreaction to the Roman Catholic claim . . . that what is here said of Peter applies also to the later bishops of Rome, that has led some to claim that the ‘rock’ here is not Peter at all but the faith which he has just confessed. The word-play, and the whole structure of the passage, demands that this verse is every bit as much Jesus’ declaration about Peter as v.16 was Peter’s declaration about Jesus . . . It is to Peter, not to his confession, that the rock metaphor is applied . . . Peter is to be the foundation-stone of Jesus’ new community . . . which will last forever. (R. T. France; in Leon Morris, Leon, General editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, vol. 1: Matthew, 254, 256)
Further documentation of Protestant commentary can be found in my paper: Dialogue on the Nature of Development of Doctrine (Particularly With Regard to the Papacy): section VIII. Now, under Protestant assumptions, why should anyone accept Mr. Cauley’s interpretation over against overwhelming Protestant scholarly consensus among commentators? Why should anyone think his take carries more weight? I go with the others, and they back up the Catholic point on this particular.
3) Jesus was speaking of truth in John 14:16, not infallibility. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
This is a distinction without a difference. Truth means “not containing error.” Infallibility means the same thing, or “inability to fail (in proclaiming true doctrine).”