Continuing in the response to 21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura, Peters claims the Church gave us the Bible, and therefore serves as a rule of faith by necessity. The argument could be stated this way: The church predates the Bible, thus the Bible could not have been the church’s sole authority; and, since the Church had to create the Bible, meaning she must be equally authoritative.
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.” 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.”)
The article 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. The prophets gave us our Old Testament, and the Apostles gave us the new. Those are respectively very small percentages of “the Israelites” and “early Catholics.” 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?
Who Did Write the Bible?
Let us be clear: God gave us the Bible. 2nd Timothy 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 early Christians and Jews didn’t write the Bible, thus they would have had no infallible 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 lived, I would agree with the argument at hand. If Paul were still walking around, 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 the 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 the word church is used 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 even claim to have those.
The Devil in the Details
If the church did “give us the Bible,” 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 until 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?
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 by Rome for the crime of giving the Bible to people.
Contrary to Peters’ claim, the Catholic church did everything she could to keep the Bible from the 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 opposition.
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 O.T. 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?
If an infallible teaching authority must create the Scriptures, which church served that role in the formation of the Old Testament?
The Bible Gave Us the Church
Perhaps the most persuasive argument against this issue is the Apostle Paul himself. What was Paul’s understanding of the sequence of events?
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…”
According to Paul, the Church, the household of God, is built on the foundation of the Scriptures (the apostles and prophets) who are built on the cornerstone Christ Jesus. The Church grew from the rich soil that was the apostolic and prophetic testimonies. Those men, their teachings and writings, built the Church; God’s Word built the Church. The church did not build the Word.
When this issue is looked at biblically 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. As Roman Catholic author Leinhard wrote, “Trent recognizes the Bible, it did not create it. The Bible is in the church, but not from the church.”