13 September 2005

Welcoming Catholic Girl to the Blogosphere

Attention visitors! There is a new blog on the Internet that is definitely worth checking out. This site, Testimony to Truth, now has a sister site. Jessica launched Catholic Girl: Faithful - Pure - Beautiful on September 12. She already has two posts up, and hopes to get something written up once a week. Her first post, excluding her introduction, is titled "Disunity Among Christian Sects". She does a very good job in describing the crisis of disunity in Christianity, explaining why the very state of the Protestant denominations is contrary to Christ's teaching. Go over there and read it!

Let me tell you something about Jessica. I met her over a Christian Lord of the Rings message board almost two years ago. We started to private message each other, and very soon religion came up. She told me that I knew quite a bit about Catholicism for a Protestant. (That's a sad statement for Protestants. :P) That night I went to the Catechism of the Catholic Church online to find out how much I really knew about Catholicism. As I went through the summaries, I was shocked to find out how much the teachings of the Church made sense, and were backed up by the Bible! I went to her and she answered all of my questions about certain teachings which I wanted to know more about.

Once I decided that what I knew of the teachings of the Catholic Church were true, Jess took it on herself to be my teacher. She approached the idea with so much enthusiasm. She came up with lessons that she typed up and e-mailed me, made me study them, and quizzed me. So you could say that Jessica was the one that started my search into the Catholic faith, the one who taught me all the basics that one needs to know, and the one who has constantly encouraged me throughout the whole process. She is one awesome Catholic Girl.

And another thing... according to her site, her mother and grandmother will be co-writing the posts with her. And one writer was good enough! This is greatness times three! That family is a light, reflecting the love and truth of God. Expect great things from
Catholic Girl. If you end up disagreeing with Jess, be careful and get ready to be told. First, because she's Catholic. Second, because she's a girl.

11 September 2005

Remembering September 11

Today we remember the fourth anniversary of the terrorists' attacks on the United States. In New York City, Washington, and Pennsylvania, nearly 3,000 people were killed by Muslim extremists. Lord, we pray for the souls of those who died in Your grace that day. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. We also pray for the families of all those who died or suffered loss as a result of those attacks. We will never understand why this happened, and by all means it does not make sense. It is hard for us to understand how you allow things to happen and why, so please help us cast all of our cares on You, God, and help us to rely solely on the fact that You are in control. We pray that You will bring our nation back to You, God. Remind us that tall towers and wealth are not what we are to focus on, but it is You, Jesus, to whom we should give the glory. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

04 September 2005

Sola Scriptura?

One of the five major protests of the Reformation was the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. This belief holds that Scripture alone is the rule of faith. People that support this idea today are sometimes called "Bible believing Christians" and believe that Scripture can be interpreted by itself or that their personal interpretation is the right one. It is quite befuddling that these people attack the 2,000 year old Catholic interpretation of Scripture while they allow multiple interpretations of critical issues within the Protestant denominations, saying that they at least agree on the 'basics'. This idea is absurd, and it is extremely evident that the Bible cannot be the sole authority for Christians.

The Church is the pillar of truth that Christians can look to for the way to salvation. I am in no way degrading the Sacred Scriptures, as these are the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. The Bible, however, must be looked at in view of the Church's teaching. The first verses thrown in defense of "Bible only" belief are almost always 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here St. Paul says that all Scripture is inspired of God, profitable to teach, correct... all so the Christian may be perfect, furnished to every good work. Perhaps I'm missing something, but no matter how many times I read this, I don't see where Paul says that Scripture is the sole authority of faith. But wait a minute! Let's read the context of these verses. Going back to verse 15, we see that Timothy has known these Scriptures from infancy. Timothy was an infant before any of the New Testament books were written. If Paul meant to make a statement restricting that which is profitable, then we should ignore the New Testament in its entirety.

If the Christian church was to rely on the Bible alone, what did those poor Christians that lived some twenty years before the first book was written and sixty years before Revelation listen to!? St. Paul seems to have the answer. "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 Thessalonians 2:15) This brings up another problem for Protestants/Evangelicals. Nowhere do we see that the books of the New Testament claim to be 'Scripture'. Neither do we see the authors of the New Testament books appealing to their authority because their writing is 'canonical'. What they do say sometimes is that the believers must accept their authority.

In the early Church, there was no such thing as a definitive canon. The first attempt at one was made by the heretic Marcion, around 150. He threw out the Old Testament, picked apart the Gospel of Luke, which he considered the only gospel, and accepted only 10 Pauline letters. We have records of the Syriac churches as early as 173 using the Diatessaron, a compilation of the four gospels into one commentary. The Acts of the Apsotles might also have been considered Scripture to them, but the Pauline epistles were not added until the third century. It wasn't until the fitfh century that the Peshitta replaced the Diatessaron in Syriac speaking churches. The Peshitta contains the books of the New Testament, excluding 2 & 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. Eusebius noted that the four gospels, Acts, Paul's epistles, 1 Peter, and 1 John are recognized. Disputed are the Didache, Hebrews, Acts of Paul, James, 2-3 Peter, Jude, Revelation, and many others. The Gospels of Peter, Thomas, Matthias, and the Acts of Andrew and John are rejected. Finally, councils at Hippo Regius and Carthage at the close of the 4th century give us the canon that Catholics use today. These were later affirmed at the Council of Trent after Luther tried taking out Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation. But that's another story. The fact is that the early Church did not just accept 27 New Testament books. It was a slow process, and it took an outside source, an infallible Church, to define the canon.

One more problem arises when you consider the multitude of interpretations of Biblical statements. Saint Peter warns in 2 Peter 3:16 that there are certain things in Scripture which are hard to understand, and if we wrest (twist) them, we do this to our own destruction! That is why when examining the Bible, we must look to the Church for the true interpretation of what we read. We see an example of the Church's authority in teaching in Acts 15:28. There the apostles in Jerusalem wrote a letter to another church, saying that "it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay no further burden on you than these things...". Here the magisterium, the teaching body of the Church, made a pronouncement with the certainty of the backing of the Holy Spirit. It was not a group of individual Christians, but a gathering of the bishops of the Church! When the controversy over circumcision came up, the apostles thought it necessary to gather together in union with Peter to make a decisive decree.

When you take into consideration all of these facts, it is obvious that the Bible is not the only rule of faith. Christians survived without the written word for decades. Once they had the written words, there was less than agreement over which were canonical. After all the books were agreed upon, there was still a need to faithfully interpret the Bible as the oral tradition had been interpreted. How that works will be discussed in my next post, but until then, it is obvious that the need exists. Christ prayed that all who would hear His word through the apostles would be one, just as He and the Father are one. Here I have discussed why the Bible must be interpreted by the Church for this unity to be existent. We will take another look at this prayer at the opening of the next discussion to find out in greater detail how that unity is achieved.

In the name of the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,