Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scriptures, Church and the Truth

The Scriptures, The Church, And The Truth

Protestants and Catholics share together a great source of truth: the Sacred Scriptures. But if we require our feelings to be the measure of truth, we will be forced to believe ourselves expert theologians—our own pope, as others have so perceptively put it—competent to interpret Scripture. Without this certainty right-interpretation of Scripture, even if it is a pseudo-certainty, we would shrink before the truly frightening prospect of beginning to believe anything. Are we, as individuals, infallible? No, of course not. We need only look at the contradicting doctrines as found through prayerful studying of Scripture believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. God does not contradict Himself therefore these individuals are most certainly mistaken (except for the one who may have found the true doctrine on his own). In these circumstances then, how can we be sure we know the truth? Is the truth that important? And where do we need to go to find the truth?

“You shall not bear a false witness against your neighbor.”[1] This well known edict gives expression to a fundamental need and right of the human intellect: truth. Our spirits crave it, and with good reason; they were designed that way! Consider also Christ's assurance that “...the truth will set you free.”[2] When asked what He meant by the phrase “set you free” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.”[3]

In other words, the truth will set you free from sin. Thereby can we already plainly see that the truth is an important thing, it is contingent to our salvation. This following verse, however, removes any lingering doubt: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[4]

The truth therefore is not just an abstract concept, it is a person (I am...the truth). “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Where is the Father? The “Pater Noster” tells us that He is in Heaven[5]. It therefore follows that if we are to reach Heaven, we must know the truth.

While most Christians can see that the truth is a precious commodity, how are we to find the truth? Where do we go? Does praying to the Holy Spirit and searching the Bible guarantee an understanding of the truth? The unforgiving test of reality proves this incorrect. Most truth-seekers believe they have found it, and yet their interpretation—their truth—is often completely contradictory to that of other sincere truth-seekers. Turning to the Scriptures to solve this problem will often disappoint; nowhere in Scripture are we guaranteed the ability to accurately interpret as individuals. In fact, they imply quite the opposite: “In [Paul's letters]...there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do with the other scriptures.”[6]

We find that the truth makes us free from sin and leads us to heaven, and a wrong interpretation of Scripture can bring on our own destruction (viz. Hell). This recommends against the common Protestant objection to the Catholic use of this verse; they will often claim that since it only says that “some things” are unclear, that those things which are necessary for salvation are clear. This understanding fails to speak to the verse itself, which states that the “things difficult to understand”, are so vital to the Gospel that when distorted, they lead to destruction.

Who then has the last word when questions of interpretation and right-Christian living arise? Our Lord tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two other others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or more witnesses.' And if he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”[7]

That Christ tells us to present our disputes to the church is one thing, but knowing which church to present them to is another. Should we go to the Catholic Church, one of the dozens of different Orthodox Churches, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Church of God, the Church of Christ, the Church of God in Christ, the Amish, the Mennonites, the Wesleyan, the Baptist, the Anabaptist, or the Methodists? Which church is Christ referring to when speaking of resolving difficulties in right-Christian living?

For example, let’s say that my cousin comes to me one day and tells me that his wife is pregnant and she feels she isn’t ready for a child right now. She’s decided to have an abortion. Failing to convince her, and attempting to follow Scripture, my cousin comes to her with another friend to try to convince her not to have the procedure, but to no avail. My cousin then goes to his church (which is Catholic) for help. Now, since the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally that abortion is wrong, we know that the Church will tell her that she shouldn’t have an abortion. But she just goes to her church (one of many possible denominations who do teach, based on their particular interpretation of Scripture, that abortion is a personal choice and can even be redemptive). So now that we have come to an impasse, which church are we to listen to? How can we follow the truth and its directions, as seen in Matthew 18:15-17, if we don’t even know where the truth lies?

Where can we find the pillar and bullwark of the truth? The upholder and defender of the truth?[8] The church is, according to St. Paul, the pillar and bulwark of the truth, but which church did he mean? Which church can we go to so that we may follow Christ's directives? Which Church is the one who received the power to bind and loose? Which is the Church who declared on her own authority, apart from Scripture, that circumcision was not a precept of the New Covenant and whose decision was binding to ALL Christians?[9] Which is the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself?

This Church should:
A) Claim to teach infallibly in matters of faith and morals, since Christ gave his Church the authority to bind and loose, and Christ would never bind Christians to a lie.[10]

B) Claim to be the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The Church founded by Jesus Christ should know her founder.

C) Be 2000 years old.

Does your church claim these things, and have the pedigree to prove it? If not, then you should take a look at the Catholic Church, which does claim all of these things. With a close look we will find that She can back them up as well.

God Bless
Nathan

Footnotes:
[1] Exodus 20:16

[2] John 8:32
[3] Ibid, 35-36
[4] Ibid, 14:6 (emphasis mine)
[5] Cf. Matthew 9:6-13
[6] 2 Peter 3:16b (emphasis mine
[7] Matthew 18:15-17
[8] 1 Tim 3:15
[9] Cf. Acts 15:25-27 with Acts 16:4
[10] Cf. Matthew 16:19, 18:18

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