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By What Authority

December 15, 2008

This is a question often poised by Catholics when refuting Evangelical or Fundamentalist tenants or beliefs.  It’s amazing what answers a little research and study will yield.

Lately, I have delved into quite an in-depth study of the Roman Catholic faith.  Since finally officially receiving Confirmation in the church about four years ago, I have just basically gone off of the knowledge gained in the RCIA and what I learned from my ex (of which I subsequently had to purge most of that ‘knowledge’ out of my head and relearn correct practices and terminology.)

There’s an amazing amount of historical information that can be gained simply by researching a bit through an unbiased source.  Casual readers can even peruse through Wikipedia for a truth on the nature of disputed historical facts about the Catholic faith.

When I was a Baptist and I was first asked about my Bible and why I didn’t have the additional books in it.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the response, which was the fact that the Catholic Church gave us the Bible first and we had taken books out.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that the Catholic Church was first.  We came from them.  Oh NO!  That was an incredible falsehood.  We were always there… right?  Our bible was always the read bible, right?  Martin Luther just made it available to the people.  We didn’t come from the Catholic Church.

A little research will yield that not only was the Catholic Church the Church which Christ founded, but it was the Church that came before the Bible.  The Gospel’s weren’t even written until around 40AD and the Bible wasn’t really compiled until much later.  Therefore, the Church was first, which is why we subscribe to the idea of Prima Scriptura instead of Sola Scriptura.  i.e. – We incorporate Sacred Tradition into our faith because it was the words of the Apostle’s and the faith Traditions they handed down to use which were used long before a Bible showed up.

When Martin Luther separated himself from the Catholic Church he removed books from the Bible.  He removed Maccabee’s because it references Purgatory and praying for those who have died.  He wanted to remove James because James talked about ‘faith by works’.

Another claim is that he separated because the Church was selling Indulgences.  That’s not correct.  The Church never sold Indulgences because you can’t sell them.  Even I, a practicing Catholic was skeptical when I heard that, but a little reading on something as light as Wikipedia showed me I was incorrect.  Even before I heard the apologist explain the answer.  Now granted, I think it could probably be taken as a point of view, yet, it does show that the Church never took money for Indulgences and condemned any groups that were abusing the Almsgiving as a way to gain Plenary Indulgences, which is what really happened.

Speaking of Purgatory, it is often difficult to argue with an Evangelical or Fundamentalist about that tenant of faith because they’re often inclined to default back to, ‘Where is that in the Bible?’

‘Where does it say in the Bible that there is Purgatory?’

‘Where does it say in the Bible that we’re supposed to regard Mary in high repose?’

Let me ask you this then, ‘Where in the bible does it use the word, ‘Trinity’?’  Nowhere.  Yet, you still acknowledge that concept even though it is absolutely nowhere referred to anywhere in the bible that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in the same.

Where in the bible does it use the word ‘Bible’ or tell us this is the only authority to which we should look?  It doesn’t.  On top of that Jesus specifically recognizes a Church first on which he will establish his truth.  Church first, Bible second.  This, again, is why we have the authority of the Church to look to.

One can easily research the early Church Fathers and find them reference the Eucharist and it being the living body, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ and not just a symbol.  They also reference Reconciliation (or Confession).  There are endless quotes about how the early fathers practiced the Sacraments among other things.  Why would we not still follow the Traditions set up by the fathers of the Church who took their instructions from others all the way back to the Apostles?  Seems to make sense to me.

There is an immense freedom and empowerment to feel like you’ve got proof for all the reasons you do what you do in your faith and not just because ‘that’s what you’ve always done’.  I have for ages felt uncomfortable and guilty about being Catholic.  I’ve heard repeatedly, “They pray to Mary and Saints, the dead, they have statues in their church, and they added books to the bible which is sinful.”  I had always felt uncomfortable and guilty having to acknowledge to people that I am Catholic and to try and even mention traditions that we follow because I know it sounds insane to them.  I have recently given up on avoiding the uncomfortable topic of religion with anyone because I am tired of being made to feel guilty for embracing this faith.  Mostly for not having the answers to the tough questions that would come up which would seem like just a matter of verbiage instead of real answers.  Primarily of all because of the very words of our Savior when he said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I just finished reading a book called “Rapture Trap” by Paul Thigpen and I think it not only gives a good argument that disputes and denounces the whole “rapture” theory but also gives a little insight into the beliefs of a Catholic.  Never thought about the rapture before really, but knew that Catholic’s didn’t subscribe to it.  I realize now that it’s because it’s unbiblical and has its roots in the late 19 century I believe.

There’s so much I can go through that challenges and changes the way I’ve thought all my life.  Even after I was Confirmed in the Catholic Church.  Everything is changing and expanding through Biblical explanations.

So the answer to the Catholic question ‘By what authority?’

We have the Magesterium which is the authority given to the Church by Christ Himself and to which he tells, “the gates of Hell will never overtake you.” (Mt 16:18)

Study the writings of Augustus, Ignatius, and Thomas Aquinas.  Read the book “Church History” by Eusebius.  It is one of earliest and oldest histories on the Church.  I am reading that now and it was recommended by another convert to Catholicism.  It talks about Bishops and other traditions handed down from the Church itself.  Interesting study and foundation that the first church was the Catholic Church.

As you can see, I continue to grow in my faith and I would hope that anyone wishing to understand their own would not just accept what their church teaches because it ‘seems right’ or ‘feels right’, but that they would understand why their church was established and where they come from.  Ask yourself, “By what Authority?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. wayne smith permalink
    November 7, 2013 8:49 am

    We must always focus on the risen CHRIST. As born- again CHRISTIANS, we embrace the simplicity of the GOSPEL; saved by GRACE through FAITH. [EPHESIANS 2:8]. We need more JESUS and less RELIGION. Religions are all for the most part, systems of works; completely unbiblical. SALVATION is a gift of GOD, HIS unmerited favor. We can’t earn it, nor do we deserve it! Our good works and deeds come out of and flow from this realization. GOD bless you and may HE grant you HIS PEACE.

  2. November 17, 2013 11:30 am

    As Catholics, we would agree with you that initial grace toward Salvation is an unmerited gift from God. Our good works are our active participation with His Will. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” is only a part of the message in context. I’d invite you to look at verse 10 of the same chapter which says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
    I would also invite you to study the second chapter of James 14-26 which states not only that faith without works is dead, but that Abraham and Rahab were not only faithful to God and did His works, but that they were JUSTIFIED and considered RIGHTEOUS before God BECAUSE they actively participated in the good works God called them to. We can always choose NOT to do the good works, but our good God-appointed works earn us Justification and Righteousness according to Scripture. We always have a choice to participate in them or not.
    We did not earn nor could we ever work or do enough works to gain the initial grace of following God in faith. That faith is granted through a grace of God, however, our works are meritorious.
    God Bless.

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