We cannot use the Bible to undermine the Church

This is an open letter to all those non-Catholics who would like to have recourse to the Bible in order to attack my precious faith in Christ and His Mystical Body, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Please notice that I openly, freely, and rationally admit that I am eminently fallible, and may belong to a false religion. For this reason I welcome all rational challenges to my Catholic faith. Together we must follow the truth wherever it leads. But, to avoid wasting our precious time, we must clearly understand that other means must be sought; the Sacred Scriptures cannot help us in this way. We cannot use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church.


Reason and Revelation

Philosophy leads us to GodThe existence of God can be known by the light of natural reason alone. To become a natural or generic monotheist, we are not obliged to take a leap of faith, and we need neither Sacred Tradition nor Sacred Scripture. Plato and Descartes were the main players in the quiet drama of my own intellectual conversion to God in 2009.Monotheistic Revealed Religions

But in order to have firm faith in any one particular monotheistic Revealed Religion (such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam) we must have good reasons to believe that our religion of choice has been given Infallible Authority. Otherwise we are freely submitting, under the idolatrous guise of religion, to an elaborate set of radically fallible human opinions—which God forbids.

As St. Augustine famously argued when confronted with another Gospel: “I do indeed submit to the Infallible Authority of the Bible, but only because I first submit to the Infallible Authority of the Church. “(See Chapter 5 of “Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus”) It is an incontrovertible historical fact that the Church defined the Canon of Scripture. So, if Scripture has Divine Authority, then its cause, the Church, must necessarily also have Divine Authority, since, according to the principle of causality, an effect cannot be greater than its cause. Therefore, we cannot use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church.


Reductio ad Absurdum

Judas hates Christ

“But,” it may be asked, “what if the Catholic Church does not, in fact, possess the Divine Authority that it boldly claims to have?”

Well, we would still be unable to use the Bible to inflict any real damage to, much less completely destroy, that false claim of Divine Authority. One way of proving this is by way of a Reduction to Absurdity. To do this we will assume the contrary proposition, and reason through to its contradictory conclusions.

Now, the proposition we want to prove is that we cannot use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church. Therefore we will affirm the contrary, namely, that we can use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church:

  1. We can use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church.
  2. The power of this bible-based attack derives from the Divine Authority of the Bible itself.
  3. Our Submission to the Divine Authority of the Bible derives from our submission to the Divine Author of the Bible, God.
  4. God empowers, in a limited but real way, those who freely and rationally submit to His Authority with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible (whether passively or actively, as the case may be.)
  5. The one true Church is, among other things, the collection or assembly of all those faithful who freely and rationally submit to God’s Authority and whom He empowers with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible.
  6. Which means that the Bible simultaneously disproves and proves the Divine Authority of the Church by both denying (point 1) and affirming (point 5) the the Divine Authority of the Church, which is absurd.
  7. Therefore, we cannot use the Bible to deny the Divine Authority of the Church.

Which is what we set out to prove.


Go the Second Mile

But let’s go one step further; let’s see what would happen if we were to deny the assertions made in the above proof, point by point:

  1. We can use the Bible to disprove the Divine Authority of the Church.
    To deny this point is to affirm the original thesis.
  2. The power of this bible-based attack derives from the Divine Authority of the Bible itself.
    To deny that the power of this bible-based attack derives from the Divine Authority of the Bible itself is either (A) to claim Divine Authority for our own private judgments, or (B) not-A, meaning not to claim Divine Authority, which is to admit that those private judgments are merely fallible human opinions, unworthy of religious assent.
  3. Our Submission to the Divine Authority of the Bible derives from our submission to the Divine Author of the Bible, God.
    To deny that your Submission to the Divine Authority of the Bible derives from your submission to God is to place the Author beneath His own work, which is absurd since and effect cannot be greater than its cause.
  4. God empowers, in a limited but real way, those who freely and rationally submit to His Authority with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible (whether passively or actively, as the case may be.)
    To deny that God empowers, in a limited but real way, those who freely and rationally submit to His Authority with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible, is to admit that we are freely submitting, under the idolatrous guise of religion, to an elaborate set of radically fallible human opinions.
  5. The one true Church is, among other things, the collection or assembly of all those faithful who freely and rationally submit to God’s Authority and whom He empowers with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible.
    To deny that the one true Church is, among other things, the collection or assembly of all those faithful who freely and rationally submit to God’s Authority and whom He empowers with the ability to Infallibly interpret the Bible is to divorce a Holy God from His Holy People.

Divine Keys

We can think of Infallible Authority as a set of keys given to us by God. In this fallen world there are many locks and many keys. Some locks guard precious treasure, but most of the locks conceal nothing but worthless trinkets. Every worldview has it’s own unique set of keys and no two sets are identical, for then they would be not two but one.

Some worldviews have no keys in common with the Catholic set, but many have some, and some have many. However, the Catholic set, and that set alone, contains all those keys and only those keys that give us full access to all the truths pertaining to faith and morals necessary for salvation. Or so the Church claims. (That’s one of the main reasons I remain Catholic.)

The Sacred Deposit of Faith is comprised of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, but because this discussion revolves around the use of Scripture as a means of undermining the Church, let’s limit ourselves to the Bible.

So, in this analogy of the keys, we can picture the Bible as a chest with many drawers containing DOCTRINES. Don’t think of the drawers as corresponding to the individual books, chapters, or verses, which require further interpretation, but as containing ready-made and well-defined DOCTRINES. That is what the keys of Infallible Authority give us, after all. True DOCTRINES are pure gold and precious gems, while false DOCTRINES are shiny but worthless trinkets.

So when the non-Catholic comes at me with his trinkets, I always ask him where he got his keys.


Conclusion: Submission gives Authority

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. —Luke 7

Obviously, not all religions claim that the 73 books of the Bible are the true canon of Divinely Revealed and Inspired Scriptures. But it bears repeating (yet again) that if a religion claims to be a Revealed Religion, it must also claim Infallible Authority. Otherwise the adherents of that religion are freely submitting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the idolatrous guise of religion, to an elaborate set of radically fallible human opinions—which God forbids.

Some will doubtless say that this is circular reasoning: “You don’t give reasons to believe that the Church has Authority, you merely assert that it is so because the Church says so!” Indeed! If my Church did not claim Infallible Authority, I would know with certainty that it was a false Church. It’s deceptively simple: God is Holy, and so His Church is Holy.

But the tight tautological reasoning I use is actually a spiral, not a circle. Those who gaze up at the Church’s heavenly spiral argument only see the outline, the circular profile; but if they would allow themselves to be carried up with the argument, then they would see the spiraling arms of God reaching down from Heaven to draw us to Himself.

Those who would challenge the Church’s claim to Infallible Authority either claim it for themselves, or not. If they do, then it becomes a battle of the COHERENCE of DOCTRINE. If they do not, then we needn’t listen to what they admit is their own private judgement based on radically fallible human opinion.

We need only take seriously those Monotheistic Revealed Religions that do claim Infallible Authority. We cannot use their Holy Books to prove them wrong for the simple reason that Holy Books are by definition given to a Holy People by a Holy God. So other means must be found. We must examine their professed and public DOCTRINE. That is the only way to sort out the sheep from the goats.

God is good. God alone.

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