Continuing in the response to 21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura, we address an issue related to the first response which was stated to be the most fundamental issue in this entire conversation.
A subset of that issue is the claim the author makes, which is, that the Church gave us the Bible, not vice versa. The argument is simple: The church predates the Bible, thus the Bible could not have been the church’s sole authority; and, the Church had to give the people the Bible. Also, we couldn’t know which books belong in the Bible without the Church.
What is the Church?
So many things need to be addressed, however, let’s start with basic definitions: what is “the Church?” As has been previously noted, the Catholic apologist seems to be very effective in utilizing the fallacy of equivocation when using this word. The definition of the word can change multiple time within the conversation.
(First of all, the word “church” is really a poor translation of what the New Testament word ekklesia means. The word in Greek means “called out ones”, or “congregation”, and that etymological fact seems to completely take the sting out of Rome’s claims to authority in and of itself, and fits much more comfortably with the protestant idea of the “universal, invisible Bride of Christ.”)
However, the article none-the-less claims that,
“It was the Church, in effect, which wrote the Bible under the inspiration of Almighty God: the Israelites as the Old Testament Church (or “pre-Catholics”) and the early Catholics as the New Testament Church.”
Referring to the Israelites as pre-Catholics made me giggle. Church here is defined as the Israelite people and the early Christians. None of whom did any writing.
These were not the people that “in effect” wrote the Bible. These were the people that preserved, transmitted, and translated it. Preserving God’s Word and revealing/writing God’s Word is NOT the same thing. The reason this is so important is because the entire argument follows afterward that because the Church wrote the Bible, they maintain the ability to infallibly interpret the Bible.
“Since the Church produced the scriptures, it is quite biblical, logical and reasonable to say that the Church alone has the authority to interpret properly and apply them.”
The problem is the church he claims wrote the Bible didn’t, and the church he claims has that authority today is an entirely different group of people, as well as a different religious institution altogether than the categories of people he used to originally define the word. In other words, if the church was the entire Israelite and early Christian people, why has the infallible interpretative authority fallen only on the teaching magesterium and the Roman Pontiff, and not the entire Catholic people? That’s a false equivocation.
Who Did Write the Bible?
Secondly, the early Christians and Jews didn’t write the Bible, thus they would have no authority to interpret them in the way the article claims. Prophets, apostles, and some men who were directly receiving information from the apostles wrote and gave us the Bible. Now, if those men still existed, then I would agree with the argument at hand. If Paul was still walking around, I would agree. I would be in the same boat saying, “Paul wrote 2/3 of this Testament, he gets to interpret it for me.” I would have no problem with that. But what’s the problem I do have? Paul’s dead.
The men who actually wrote the Bible are dead; they aren’t here. And since Rome does not claim that there are living prophets and apostles today, She does not have the same authority as Prophets and Apostles, namely, infallible interpretation. Prophets and Apostles wrote the Bible, not the church, therefore, infallible interpretation ceased when they did. Only when we use the word church so ambiguously can this even be made to look like a semblance of a meaningful argument. If we want the same authority today from the same people that wrote and gave us the Bible, we need Apostles and prophets, and Rome doesn’t claim to have those.
What About the Old Testament Church?
Another great question to ask, which Rome has never provided a meaningful response to, is how did the Jewish people know the OT canon was inspired?
If the 1st century Christians were not able to recognize a book as being divinely inspired without an infallible church, how did the Jewish people manage to do this very thing without an infallible church?
Begging the Question/Circular Reasoning:
He quoted the New Testament Scriptures to justify this claim, but therein lies the circularity. In order to make the claim that the New Testament teaches this, he would need to know the New Testament is inspired and how to properly interpret it. However, his entire argument stands upon how New Testament teachings cannot be known without the Church. He uses the New Testament to justify his views on the Church, and uses the Church to justify his using of the the New Testament. That’s a circle. He had to first beg the question. He had to assume what he needs to prove (the authority of the Catholic Church) prior to reading the Scriptures. And is it a surprise to anyone that the Catholic Church’s forced interpretation of the New Testament happens to yield the belief that we all need to submit to the Catholic Church?
The “Golden Index”
The Bible is inspired, but there is no inspired table of contents, thus you need the Church to compile the inspired book together. Without the authority of the Church, one can’t know the books they have are the right ones.
What Does it Mean that the Church Gave Us the Bible?
Now details as to what this process was and when it took place is necessary to make a claim of this sort. The only time a formal council met to make some kind of ecclesiastical decision on Canon didn’t take place 1546 at the council of Trent. Are we really supposed to believe God’s people had no functioning Bible and were completely oblivious, agnostic, and/or skeptical to God’s written Word for over fifteen hundred years of church history?
Who Gave Us the Bible Then?
The idea that the Church gave us the Bible would make
Tyndale spin in his grave, but he wasn’t buried, he was strangled and burned to death. And his crime was giving the Bible to us. The Church did everything She could to keep the Bible from us, the lay people. Many great men shed their blood to get the Bible in common languages and in common hands. Rome did not give us the Bible, we inherited it in spite of their attempts against that.
Let us be clear: God gave us the Bible.
2nd Tim. 3: 15-17 teaches that the Scriptures are God-breathed and 1 Peter 2: 1-16 teaches that men were moved and carried along by the Spirit of God to say the things according to God’s will. God used Apostles and Prophets to write Scripture. The Holy Spirit gave the Bible to His church.
The quickest way to sum up this wonderful scholarly work for the lay person goes like this:
Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. Thus,God’s books are self-authenticating. This makes sense, for if they needed external authentication then they would be submitted to a higher, worldly authority. All ultimate authorities must authenticate themselves (Which is what God throughout Scripture.)
Thus, our self-authenticating model consists of many aspects:
1) The Scriptures bear divine qualities which reflect its Divine authorship.
2) The Holy Spirit works internally and corporately to reveal the nature and truths of these books to His church.
Then, we can see the expected outcomes of these truths in history, namely:
1) These books have apostolic origins which can be traced and known
2) These books were widely accepted from a very early stage by God’s people.
When this issue is looked at biblically, theologically, philosophically, and historically, it is simply not true that the Church (whatever that means) gave us the Bible. The Bible is not the product of the church, but rather, the church is the product of the Scriptures. Kruger even quotes Catholic author Leinhard saying, “Trent recognizes the Bible, it did not create it. The Bible is in the church, but not from the church” (Kruger, 41).
The Word of God comes from God, and He has not allowed His people to go without it for 1500 years. He has revealed His word to His church, and we cling to that Word today.