A Response to a Non-Catholic on the “Bible Alone” and the authority of the Catholic Church
Question… where in scripture does it say that it MUST be written in scripture for it to be believed? Please do not just point out the verses that discuss the efficacy, inerrancy, or inspiration of scripture… i.e. 2 Tim 3:16… on all of this we agree! I’m looking for the verse that says it MUST be written in Scripture before it should be believed. Where is that verse?
In the meantime let me just just remind you of what you already know….
2 Thessalonian 2: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Timothy 2:  You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Luke 10:  “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Romans 10:  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.
1 Peter 1: but the word of the Lord abides for ever.” That word is the good news which was preached to you.
2 John 1: Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
So… clearly Scripture IS inspired and infallible… this we agree! But, no where IN Scripture will you find a verse that says it MUST be written in Scripture before it is to be believed by the faithful. To the contrary the above are a few examples of how the 1st century Church taught the faith… handing its TRADITIONS on by preaching, and oral teaching, and eventually by letter preserving the witness of the Apostles as they began to be martyred and die off. So the Catholic position of BOTH Scripture & tradition is inline with what is witnesed in both Scripture & TRADITION! Read the early Fathers… its clear. Here is an article that will go into additional detail on the argument: http://www.catholic.com/library/Scripture_and_Tradition.asp. And here is an article that will cite some early Church Fathers on Apostolic tradition being handed on from one generation to the next: http://www.catholic.com/library/Apostolic_Tradition.asp.
Question… where is Scripture does it give us the infallible list of the books that God wanted us to have? How do we know that John is inspired? Other than your own personal intuition, and communion with the Holy Spirit, how can the faithful be sure of it? No where do we find a list within the pages of scripture… so… at what point did we get all 27 books of the New Testament? Who decided they were inspired? Were you aware that John’s Gospel was disputed as an inspired book for a long time? Did you know that the a letter of Pope St. Clement (1st century) was considered to be canonical for many centuries? There was all kinds of debate going on for the first 400 years as to what was in fact “Scripture”. An insight into this discourse can be found in the ancient document the Muratorian Fragment from aprox. 150 AD : http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/muratorian.html (NON-Catholic source and translation). So who was it that decided the cannon? The Catholic Church! Here is a good article that will go into great detail on this issue and more: http://scripturecatholic.com/scripture_alone.html.
Question… what is the pillar and foundation of truth? I’ll bet your tempted to say Scripture… but, is that what Scripture says? No…
1 Timothy 3: I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that,
 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.
NIV version : 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
2) The Magisterium…. the Church in Scripture
Since its the CHURCH & not Scripture that is the pillar and foundation of Truth… and Truth is a person… Jesus Christ… we should next look at the form/structure/nature of that ONE Church, the body of Christ, in scripture.
I do not believe in denominations however, to be clear, there is, and always has been, only 1 Assembly of God… only one family. In the Old Testament it was referred to as the “qahal” (cf. Ex. 24) and in the New Testament it is referred to as the “ekklesia” (c.f. Hebrews 12). There is continuity between the Old & the New “assembly” of God… Jesus didn’t come to do something “different”, he simply perfected that which HE established from the beginning (cf. Matthew 5). God called Israel HIS first born son, and called him out of slavery… God does not create anything, which is “not” good (Cf. Gen. 1). Jesus posses’ just ONE body, and we know that HIS body and THE Church are ONE (cf. Eph. 5). So it is impossible to say that there are many denominations, as this would mean Jesus posses’ more than ONE body. There is only ONE Church… the family of God.
I will argue that the ONE Church is the Catholic Church, and that at no time, in the first 1500, or so, years of the Church’s history do you find anything other than the Catholic Church. Pick a date, any date, and I can demonstrate for you the Catholic Church. I will argue that the Catholic Church alone posses the fullness of Divinely revealed faith, by Jesus Christ, and therefore She alone is capable of expressing Christ in His Fullness. I certainly do not mean to insult anyone by saying this… I also do not mean to imply that non-Catholic brothers and sisters do not posses “Truth”, or the “Holy Spirit”, etcetera, as clearly they do posses a portion of both. However, that does not mean they are, by default, apart of, strictly speaking, the One Church, which Jesus DID give us. I will demonstrate it very briefly here.
I have 5 children on earth, and 3 entrusted to God in heaven. Question; how do my children know they are apart of my family? Well… they bear my likeness, they bear my name, my wife is their mother, they abide in my home, they eat at my table… to name just a few. Another question; could anyone be apart of my family if none of the above were true of them? What if you claimed to be apart of my family… I’ve never met you, don’t really know anything about you… if you just claim it… does that make it “so”? The obvious answer is no. In order for you to be apart of my family you would have to be adopted in… to enter into a covenant relationship with me, as the Father of this family, and then you would be apart of my “assembly” however, you would then be expected to live with, and just like, the family which you were grafted into. You would not be free to do as you saw fit, or felt led to do. “Feelings” can be deceiving, even ones we think are inspirations. We must, as Scripture tells us… test it against what was given to us in revelation.
The same is true for God’s family. A father who fathers more than one family is not a father at all… in fact, a father like that is called something all together less dignified. God the Father only Father’s ONE family… the Church. So… those who are members of that family bear His likeness, bear His name, are children of the Mother HE established, abide in His home, and eat at His ONE table of the ONE loaf. They are not “free” to worship him as they “feel” led… rather they must, and do so joyfully, worship him as has been established from the beginning.
So that begs the question… what is that ONE Church? What is its structure? How does it worship? What does it teach? Where is it today? I produce a radio show on these topics and I would encourage you to listen to a few of my past shows, linked below, for much more detail than Im about to share with you. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of time to engage in lengthy discourse… which is another reason why I produce the show however, if you take the time to listen to them I think you would at least understand why the Catholic Church claims what it does. You may not agree but, at least you will have heard the Catholic position.
We know that the Assembly of God, in the Old Testament, had a structure, a hierarchy, a law, a Priesthood, liturgy with sacrifices, incense, gold, alters, bread and wine, etcetera. We even see how the Assembly in the Old Testament was given miraculous bread from heaven, and living water from the Rock (Cf. Ex. 16 & 17). We even see how King David, like Moses, had 12 Princes, or ministers of the Assembly, who were empowered to act on his behalf, and posses his authority. One of these men was even referred to as the “Chief Steward”, or the “Over the House”. This man, as Is. 22:15-25 says, was robed as a high Priest, was placed in charge of the sacramental vessels, bore the “keys to the Kingdom” (“he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”), and was a “Father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem”.
Some Questions; Where in the Old Testament was the Assembly of God allowed to worship God, as they chose fit individually, as they “felt” inspired to do so? Did God not chastise them every time they fell away and felt “inspired” to worship “other” deities (cf. Hosea, or Ex. 34, or Deuteronomy)? Is there any reason to believe the assembly, brought to its perfection in the New Testament, would NOT also have the same characteristics as the Old? Did not our Lord say in Matthew 5:17 & 18 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” … ? Did not our Lord say to the Chief Priests that He would take way their authority over the Assembly, the Kingdom of God, and give it to trustworthy stewards in Matthew 21? Like Moses & David who had 12 Princes/Priests (Ex. 24), does not our Lord also have 12 Princes/Priests (cf. Luke 22:20, notice same language used in Ex. 24 with the 12 Priests is used here by our Lord)? Is there not also, like David, and every Davidic King after him, a “Chief Steward”, who also posses the “Keys of the Kingdom”, and has “binding” authority, is tasked with “Feeding” the King’s sheep… as a “Father” to the inhabitants of HIS House (Cf. Matthew 16 & John 21 & Luke 22:32)? Like the WISE King Solomon, whose Mother sat as Queen on a throne, at the RIGHT hand of the King (cf. 1 Kings 2:19), does not our NEW, and greater KING, the ultimate WISE man who builds HIS house on the Rock of St. Peter, also give us HIS Mother as a Queen to be OUR Mother (John 19:27, Rev. 12:1)? Did not our Lord say to His 12 Princes he who hears YOU, hears ME in Luke 10:16? Did our Lord NOT give THEM, those 12 men, the Holy Spirit by breathing it on them, and sending them out, just as HE was sent, to hear and forgive sins (cf. John 20:21-23)? Just how did those men decide weather to forgive or retain sins… unless they heard them first? Do you think this is the first instance in Scripture of a confession to a Priest? Have you not read Lev. 4 and elsewhere? Did not our Lord feed the people in the wilderness THROUGH His 12 princes and it was THOSE 12 men who picked up the FULL baskets of left overs in John 6? Is not our Lord the promised Prophet, the NEW Moses of Duet. 18, that brought BACK, the daily miracle of Manna from heaven? But, unlike the old manna, which the Fathers in the wilderness ate and died… he who eats “MY” flesh, and drinks “MY” blood, Jesus says, shall never die, also in John 6? Is this NOT the ONE loaf St. Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 10, which IS a participation in the “Body” & “Blood” of Christ? Is this NOT the heavenly, DAILY (Acts 2:42 & 46), bread which we eat at the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 21)? Did NOT St Paul teach us in 1 Tim 2:15 that it is the CHURCH, and NOT Scripture, which is the pillar and foundation of TRUTH, (“if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”)? Did not our Lord say that if we have a dispute against a brother, which cannot be resolved, we should take it to THE Church in Matthew 18? And… (verse 17) “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Wow… notice how strong that last line… if he refuses to listen… even to THE Church! Does that sound like someone who was giving every Christian the authority to interpret as they “felt” inspired” to do so? Or rather, does it sound like there is A Church with binding authority on every Christian?
Ok… you and I disagree over this issue, right? Question; whose Church do we take it to? Yours or mine? Which Church has the kind of “binding” authority spoken of in the Gospel? I assume each of us would claim our own… but, again we disagree. What now? Do we excommunicate each other? Did not our Lord pray that His Church would be ONE in John 17 and NOT many? Have the “gates of hell” somehow prevailed against His Church? If so… then what of Matthew 16? Do you think our Lord didn’t see this kind of a problem coming? If the Old Assembly had a “Chair of Moses”, the seat of Authority, which the Pharisee possessed (cf. Matthew 23), then why would the NT Assembly also NOT have such a Chair which the NEW Stewards, THESE particular 12 men, now posses with binding authority? Is it at all likely that Jesus would have left each man to interpret how to worship, teach, understand, and live as a family according to our “own” dictates? As “We” felt inspired to do?
No… Common sense would tell us this is clearly not the case. Just as the founding fathers of America didn’t leave us the Constitution and tell us to “go in the spirit of Washington” to interpret it for ourselves, rather they gave us a structure with binding authority. How much more then, Jesus our Lord, the 2nd person of the Trinity, gave us a far more superior family, with structure, worship, family bonds, and binding authority? The very idea that one is free to interpret based on how he “feels”, apart from the established “Assembly”, how he’s “led” by the Holy Spirit is a pure novelty in Salvation History. Please demonstrate that concept from the Old Testament… showing how it was perfected in the New Testament. I would argue its nowhere found in Scripture. When the 10 northern tribes split off from King Rahoboem, Solomon’s son, in 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam set up a few golden calves for Ephraim to worship. Why did he do this? So that they wouldn’t go down to Jerusalem to worship and risk the loss of their obedience to Judea & Rahoboem. What was the result? Read any of the Prophets… or even the just the Minor Prophets like Hosea, and Jonah, etc. … Because they chose to worship “any old way they felt”… he would have them wiped out by the Assyrian Gentiles! Can we worship how we “feel”? Or should we worship how God has established from all eternity? In worship are we not engaged in a covenant relationship with Him whom we worship? IF that’s true… then wouldn’t a deviation of that worship be akin to adultery with our spouse? A perversion of our authentic relationship with the lover of our soul?
No, the only men who received “the call”, the Holy Spirit, the command to “go and make disciples”, to preach the good news, were the 12 Apostles. Jesus did not say to everyone “receive the Holy Spirit”, rather just to THEM. Our Lord did not give the “keys of the Kingdom” to everyone, rather JUST to St. Peter! Our Lord didn’t invite just anyone to feed the people in the wilderness, rather just THOSE 12 men. Our Lord didn’t invite people off the streets to partake in the Last Supper, HIS body and blood, rather JUST His 12 Princes/Priests of the NEW Israel (compare to Ex. 24).
In fact, to everyone our Lord spoke in parables but… to HIS 12 he spoke plainly (Matthew 13:10-14)! Why? Because we must go through the Kings appointed ministers to be fed, to be called, to be instructed, and to be grafted into the Kings family. It’s NOT the ministers who posses the Kingdom, no, they serve at the pleasure of the King. So we see how these particular men come together to replace the Bishopric of Judas in Acts 1. Look at verse 20 – “For it is written in the book of Psalms, `Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and `His office let another take.” Why another take? Because Judas held an office, that MUST be filled when vacant. Much like the office of the President of the United States. Could anyone in the room that day, in Acts 1, just claim the position based on an inspiration? No… they HAD to be called by the appointed Stewards, the ministers of the King. The same is true with St. Paul. He was confirmed by St. Peter, and he too laid hands and ordained Bishops, and Priests… just anyone could NOT claim such a status. They had to be called by the Church first.
So how do I know that this is the proper interpretation of Scripture? Well… let’s allow the 1st century Church to tell us. The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a Bishop of the Church in 110 AD. This man was a student of the Apostle John himself… so he was as close as your going to get to the “source” outside of the Scriptural account. Here’s what he has to say… notice what he calls the Church…. Catholic!
“See that you all follow the Bishop, as Christ does the Father, and the presbyterium as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as a command of God. Let no one do anything connected with the Church without the Bishop. Let that be considered a certain [βεβαια, “valid”] eucharist which is under the leadership of the Bishop, or one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the Bishop appears, there let the multitude of the people be; just as where Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church [ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία]. It is not permitted with the Bishop either to baptize or to celebrate an agape; but whatever he shall approve of, that is well-pleasing also to God, so that everything that is done may be assured and certain [βέβαιον]”.
—St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 AD, Letter to the Smyrneans 8
You can read all 7 letters written by this man here:http://earlychristianwritings.com/ignatius.html (non-Catholic source and translation)
Here are a few shows that will shed a little more light on the Catholic position.
My show is called “Behold The Man” and my website is CatholicHack.com.
Behold The Man No. 47 All Things New
Link: Audio | BTM: All Things New
Behold The Man No. 39 Heaven and Earth Collide
Link: Audio | BTM: Heaven and Earth collide!
Behold The Man No. 35 The Kingdom
Link: Audio | BTM: The Kingdom
Behold The Man No. 65 Transitive Property and Salvation outside the Catholic Church!
Link: Audio | BTM: The transitive property and Salvation outside the Catholic Church
Behold The Man No. 36 Feed My Sheep
Link: Audio | BTM: Feed My Sheep
I wish you the very best Brother in Christ! Pray for me as I will pray for you!
God Bless You
About the Author:
Joe McClane – The Catholic Hack! – is the director and events coordinator for Fullness of Truth Catholic Evangelization Ministries, as well as an a Catholic New Media producer & Evangelist. He is married to his lovely wife Michelle and they have five children. The Catholic Hack | Catholic Apologetics, Theology & More!