Since becoming a member of the church of Christ on October 15, 1950, I have been thinking to prepare for the brethren a brief exposition of the most important Catholic doctrines in a way that would help them to understand without misrepresentations the Romanist position and, at the same time, answer properly the main difficulties presented to them by Catholic friends and acquaintances. Such an idea, encouraged by many during my two missionary trips all over the country, is being realized finally with the publication of this book in which I have gathered together old and new material concerning traditional tenets of Roman Catholicism. Of course, a work such as this cannot be exhaustive in all its parts, due to the multiplicity of errors held by the Church of Rome, and therefore I have limited my investigation to some of them, hoping to continue the job in the near future, God willing.
The purpose of this book is two-fold, namely exposition and confutation of errors, and a constructive effort to establish the truth in the place of error. The immediate and practical consequence of this purpose is the spreading of the revealed truths of God among people who have no other knowledge than the church traditions in which they have been raised. But to accomplish such a noble aim it is necessary to do personal work of evangelism among friends and acquaintances, and therefore this book could be used by Christians as a guide and a source of material in affirming the principles of New Testament Christianity. That's the reason for the title.
The main difficulty that Christians will experience in converting Catholics is due to the almost complete ignorance that they have of the Bible. Having been taught mechanically and exclusively by their priests on the doctrines of the Church, they find, especially in the beginning, an insurmountable obstacle to understand biblical teaching and, consequently, they should not be overwhelmed with too many subjects all at once. A slow and progressive discussion on individual problems will be helpful to all. For this reason it is suggestible not to lend this book indiscriminately to every Catholic without a previous preparation. Any work of evangelism can be successful only if it is done gradually or by steps. The brethren will find two types of Roman Catholics, the ones faithfully fanatic for their Church and the others indifferent for any church. With both types it is very difficult to deal; hence the necessity of prayer, prudence, and perseverance.
In the eventuality that some Roman Catholics shall read this book directly without the help of a Christian friend, I want to say to them that, in exposing the tenets of their Church, I have intended to fight against man-made institutions and not at all against them. As a former Roman Catholic priest I love them with the same love I had for them when I was ministering unto them. May the Lord Jesus Christ open their minds to the truth of the gospel and fill their hearts with love toward Him, for whose name and glory this book has been written.
ANICETO M. SPARACNA
West Collingswood, N. J.
September 1, 1955.
NECESSITY OF EVANGELISM
The Great Commission that Jesus Christ left to the disciples just before His ascension to heaven constitutes a tremendous responsibility for all the Christians in the world. Each one of us has received from Christ through the person of the apostles an important duty that cannot be omitted without endangering our own salvation. As the Lord puts it, the evangelization of all peoples is a duty of every Christian according to the knowledge and possibility that he possesses. Jesus commanded categorically: "Go ye, therefore, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," Mark 16:15. These words are very clear and bind us without any exception. All of us ought to be preachers, evangelists, messengers of Christ among the people with whom we are dealing daily in every way. The Word of God must be spread all over the world in order to bring into the kingdom of Christ as many souls as we can. Christianity must be enlarged everywhere, but especially in our own country, town and family. Unfortunately, there are still very many people who do not know the gospel; we must try to convert them not only through our prayers and good example, which exhibit to them the power of the Word of God, but also by personal evangelism which is one of the most efficacious means of preaching. Because the early Christians insisted tenaciously in this particular field they won the mighty empire of Rome for Christ. A similar task confronts us today; the task of winning the world for Christ. We must fulfill His command to "teach all nations" inflamed with a crusading zeal for souls.
However, in order to be successful in our evangelistic efforts, it is advisable to concentrate our energies to some definite fields, so that we may be very well prepared through a careful study of specialization. That is why the primary purpose of this booklet has been confined to a particular group of people who are following the traditions of men rather than the words of God. It has been prepared in order to help our Christian brethren in their missionary work among Roman Catholics, whose knowledge of the Bible is very lacking and, consequently, makes them one of the most difficult fields of evangelism ever experienced by any personal worker. Wherefore the necessity of presenting some important suggestions which could be very useful in converting those people about whom I can speak with personal experience, having been for twenty years in a Franciscan monastery and for eleven years a priest in good standing in the Church of Rome.
IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
The first thing that every Christian should never omit while engaged in personal evangelism is to pray earnestly unto God for conversions. It would be impossible for us to convert anyone without the active work of the Spirit. We might be able to convince some people intellectually, but never change their minds spiritually, making believers from unbelievers. This is the exclusive job of God, it being a philosophical principle that no one can give to others anything which he does not possess, as, for instance, the divine grace. Nature cannot produce supernature in the same way that the finite is unable to become infinite by its own virtue. Faith is a supernatural act which cannot be elicited independently from God. Rightly it can be defined: An act of the intellect assenting to a divine truth under the influence of the will which is moved by God through grace. In other words, faith comes as a gift from God and, although we receive it by hearing His words of life, nonetheless it is given to us in response to our attitude of prayer. In the Old Testament there are many passages showing the necessity of divine help in order to obtain mercy and salvation. The Psalmist invokes: "O God, convert us; and show thy face, and we shall be saved." Ps. 79:20. In the New Testament Jesus said: "No one can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." John 6:44. And again: "For without me you can do nothing." John 15:5. Furthermore, Paul states that salvation is a gift "For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. And again in 2 Timothy 1:9: "Who (God) hath delivered us and called us by his holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world."
It is evident, therefore, that if we want to convert others, we must be a people of prayer, asking God with humility and steadfastness to open the door of His spiritual treasury in order to change the minds and move the hearts of the unbelievers. In 1 Cor. 3:6-7 Paul emphasized this thought in a very clear way when he wrote: "I have planted, Apollo watered: but God gave the increase. Therefore, neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase." Until this important spiritual fact is clearly understood by the brethren as well as by truth-seekers all our personal work of evangelism among Roman Catholics will prove of little, if any, avail. Hence the necessity of acknowledging the power of God in the spiritual task of converting people for Christ. "Therefore did I say to you that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father." John 6:66.
One of the wisest things to do with any person of different faith or belief is to build a warm friendship with him. It would be very impractical, if not impossible, to talk about religion with some one whom we had not met before. Canvassing from door to door or preaching at the corner of a city street, as many sectarians do, is not only embarrassing for the individuals engaged in such a work, but also troublesome for others. Besides, it would be foolish to expect positive results from that sort of evangelism. Friendship, therefore, is the first step that we have to make when we begin our personal work among Roman Catholics. Thereafter we may introduce occasionally a religious subject without showingto do it purposely, unless we would be invited personally to discuss a religious matter. Catholics are extremely proud and jealous of their religious traditions and tenets and would resist any attempt to contradict them openly. On the other hand, they have an inferiority complex in this particular field due to their acknowledged ignorance of the Bible, and thus are afraid to engage themselves in any religious talk which could endanger their spiritual security. Therefore, we must not rush or challenge them in any way, but be patient and comprehensive of their repulsive attitude, showing a great love and an appreciative interest in their behalf.
Moreover, we must always remember to be kind and sweet as much as we can, trying to avoid any arguing in order to captivate the sympathy and confidence of our hearer. Losing our self-control in such a circumstance would mean a lost battle for our purposes. On the contrary, we ought to use the same charity of our Lord in dealing with people, helping them in every way according to our own possibilities. Jesus Christ took care of the material necessities of the multitudes before starting to convert their souls. The parable of the good Samaritan teaches us to love and help our neighbors regardless of the difference of age, race, language and religion. Only if based on such premises shall our personal evangelism among Roman Catholics be efficacious and successful with satisfaction for us and glory for God.
Another important step of which we must be aware while discussing with Catholics is to examine in the beginning all the doctrines that are commonly accepted by both sides. Nothing, in fact, could be more helpful than to show a common ground of agreement from which to start later a discussion about the doubtful points that we intend to clarify in the light of the Bible. Catholics consider themselves to be Christians and are taught they belong to the only true church established by Jesus Christ on earth. Therefore, we must never think of them as if they were unbelievers or pagans, because such an attitude would put between us and them an insurmountable obstacle. Instead, it would be a very good thing if we would be able to read or repeat to them the "Apostles' Creed" in which is contained, as in epitome, the fundamental doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church which are universally recognized as true. This creed, composed in the Eastern Church, was used by the early Christians as a formula of faith before receiving baptism, and still now is repeated by the Catholics almost every day as a prayer. In it we have a summary of doctrines, already contained in the Bible, and disposed in twelve articles in order to be easily memorized. It says: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified; died and was buried; He descended into hell (hades); the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church...." At this point you may stop, making the natural remark that in this creed there is not mentioned the Roman Catholic Church, but only the holy Catholic Church. It is clear that Romanism is a denominational church and not at all the universal church of Christ claimed by the Catholics. We also believe we belong to this holy Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ and established by the apostles on the day of Pentecost, showing properly that the exclusiveness of Romanism in this point is, therefore, a falsity. It may be emphasized here that the church of Christ can have but one name (Rom. 16:16) for the simple fact that once Christians we shall be always Christians without any other mark, distinction or denomination, as Paul wonderfully wrote to the Galatians 3:27: "For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus." And again in 1 Cor. 12:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free." Upon what basis then can the Roman Catholic Church affirm to be the only true church of Jesus Christ when in its own symbol of faith the appellative of Roman is not there?
Generally one of the main difficulties that hinders Catholics from leaving their church is the so-called historical argument based on the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the continuation of the primitive church of Jerusalem. Through an unbroken line of popes and bishops, validly consecrated from the beginning till now, Catholic apologists strive to show that there has been no interruption in the apostolic succession of the Church of Rome, and consequently the Reformation first and the Restoration later are both considered as heretical movements. To demonstrate the absurdity of such a reasoning it is sufficient to know that since the first century many churches, although founded by the apostles, became notoriously heretical and this simply means that the apostolic succession cannot constitute a mark or test for the true church of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we are taught that only the adherence to the words of God is a real sign of evidence for such a recognition. In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul wrote: "For there is one body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all..." These are the true notes that are absolutely necessary in order to belong to the universal church of Christ. The apostolic succession is good to demonstrate the antiquity of some churches, but never the authenticity of a true church. For this reason, Paul, Peter, and John in their letters warned the early Christians to be watchful for many pseudo-prophets and false doctors, who were already at work in spreading heresies and errors among all the congregations of the saints. Besides, Paul writing to the Galatians 1:6-8 said: "I am astonished that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. Which is not another: only there are some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema." It is clear that the great apostasy, which is still working in Christendom, was initiated under the eyes of the apostles, and therefore it is simply childish and foolish to see in the apostolic succession the mark of the true church of Christ, as does the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, we may add that if this principle would be good, the Greek Church, which by all means could claim the same succession, also should be recognized as the true church of Jesus Christ. Why then does the Church of Rome consider the Greek Church schismatic and heretic? This evident incongruity shows marvelously the fallacious conclusion substained by the Roman Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, we may vindicate historically and morally the veracity and authenticity of New Testament Christianity, following the principle that a true church must always be conformed to the Bible. Any innovation, alteration, or addition made on it is against the will of God and prepares the way to error and heresy. The apostles always commanded the church to be faithful to the words of God, to keep the commandments of the Lord, to avoid false doctrines and false doctors. Now, if there is a church that does not follow these apostolic dispositions, this church cannot be true; and this is precisely the case of the Roman Catholic Church which, following the traditions of men rather than the words of God, went far away from the truth. For this very reason there arose throughout the centuries many religious reformers asking for removal of the abuses and a return to the purity and simplicity of New Testament Christianity, using the Bible as the only mark of discrimination for a true church. The many dogmas and doctrines added by the Catholics to the Bible shows irrefutably that their church cannot be the true church of Jesus Christ as they claim, and therefore they have the moral duty to quit error for the sake of truth.
This is the right conclusion that we must reach while discussing with Catholics, whose stubborness can be explained only by the prejudices of their long tradition. They are taught by the priests that outside of the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation; we must assure them that we may have salvation only if we have adherence to the Bible. That is why it is necessary for them to read this holy book and discover for themselves the many contradictions between their church and the words of God. As we read in the second letter of John 1:9 the mark of true Christianity rests on the doctrine of Christ: "Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son." We do know that Catholics are living in the darkness of error, having the appearance of religion while in their heart they are worshipping creatures; it is our duty therefore to help them in finding the truth. Let us spread among them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ discussing with them the fundamental doctrines of our faith in the light of the Scriptures. But, in doing so, we must always remember to use the Bible approved by the Roman Catholic authority, because otherwise Catholics would not listen to us, remaining with a strong suspicion that our Bible has been purposely revised. Their ignorance on the Scriptures constitutes generally the biggest handicap in discussion with them, and therefore we ought to use discretion and wisdom in order to avoid being accused of misleading them.
In the following chapters, where we shall expose in detail the main tenets of the Roman Catholic Church which are in contradiction with the Scriptures, we will use for reference the Rheims-Douay Version of the Bible, edited entire in 1610, and which was a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate authorized by the fathers of the Council of Trent. In this way, our Roman Catholic friends can be assured that there will be no misrepresentation of biblical doctrines in confuting the basic errors of their man-made church. What we ask of them is to discuss with us without any religious prejudice, searching the Scriptures with sincerity and broad-mindedness in order to rediscover there that revealed truth which too often men and centuries have concealed or obscured. The brethren of the churches of Christ are eager to help them in any way during their biblical investigations, hoping and praying that the saving power of Jesus Christ may penetrate into every soul for the highest glory of God and the enlargement of His kingdom on earth.
Roman Catholic Sources of Authority
It is supremely important, while discussing with Catholics, to establish at the very beginning the religious authority with which they are willing to agree in order to prove the problems under investigation. Without a common basis of proof it would be almost impossible to carry on any kind of reasoning. However, it is not so easy to reach such an agreement with people who are instructed more in the church doctrines than in the Word of God. Hence, the necessity to examine first of all the Roman Catholic sources of authority and find out the norm or rule of faith that directs Catholics in their religious life. Through a fair criticism on the reliability of this rule our Catholic friends may understand the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures and, consequently, accept the Bible as the only fount of doctrine and practice for all Christians.
It is well known that the Roman Catholic Church believes in two sources of religious authority, namely Bible and Tradition. The former is considered to be the "written revelation" and is called also Scripture, while the latter constitutes the so-called "unwritten revelation" from which came into being throughout the centuries all the errors held by the Roman Church today. From a clear and fair examination of these two sources may depend our possibility of reaching Roman Catholics. In the following chapters we shall see what they really understand about the Bible and about Tradition, showing to them with scriptural and historical evidences the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures and therefore the necessity of abandoning their man-made doctrines for God's revealed truths.
ROMAN CATHOLIC BELIEF AND USE OF THE BIBLE
Unquestionably the belief in the divine authorship of the Bible is one of the foundation stones of Roman Catholicism. In every public or private teaching the Church of Rome has always appealed to the Bible as a source of revelation and, although claiming the exclusive-ness of its interpretation, has considered it as the most valuable argument in favor of religious or moral doctrines. The very fact that Tradition itself is said to be based on the Scriptures shows beyond a shade of doubt the primary importance in which the Bible has been placed by Romanists. It is not correct therefore to say that they disrepute the Bible or do not recognize its divine authority. A charge such as this, besides being false, would dig up an insuperable abyss between their position and ours. They do believe that the Bible is the world's supreme book, that it is a library within a single cover and whose contents have no equal in human literature; that it contains the only authentic account of the origin of man and the material universe; that it records the most ancient history of mankind that it reveals God and his marvelous plan of salvation; that it uncovers the true issues of life and lifts up our hope in the certainty of a future and blissful destiny. Above all, they believe that the Bible is the true Word of God, who spoke first by the prophets, then by his Son, and lastly by the apostles (Hebr. 1:1-2). The Bible is indeed at the core of Roman Catholic worship.
However, depending in everything from the infallible authority of the Church, Catholics have no right to interpret the Bible as they please, nor can they use indifferently whatever text or scriptural comment. In the preface of the Douay Version is an express warning: "Bibles and biblical commentaries, to be lawful for Catholic readers, must bear the approval of a Bishop of the Church" (p. vi). The subject of the present chapter is precisely concerned with Roman Catholic belief and use of the Bible.
OFFICIAL TEACHING ABOUT THE BIBLE
In the Baltimore Catechism, acknowledged by all as an incontestable authority on Catholic doctrines, the official teaching of the Church regarding the Bible is expressed as follows: "Sacred Scripture, or the Bible, is the Word of God written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and contained in the books of the Old and New Testament.
"Inspiration is the act by which God moves and directs the sacred writers faithfully to commit to writing all those things and only those things that He wishes them to write. The sacred writers act as free instruments of God, who is the principal author of Sacred Scriptures."
Although the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Scripture is the Word of God, it does not support the idea of the verbal dictation of the Bible. Instead, it affirms that the Bible is everywhere true in the sense intended by the individual sacred writer. (A Catholic Dictionary, p. 59)
In Radio Replies, Fathers Rumble and Carty offer us a very clear explanation of the Catholic position in such a matter, writing: "If, by verbal inspiration is meant a dictation of the very words to the writers by God, as one dictates to a stenographer, Catholics are not obliged to believe in verbal inspiration. But we are obliged to believe that every single word as it left the hands of the original writers was written under the inspiration of God, and infallibly expressed the truth intended by God... Not a word, nor a sentence, belonging to the original writings, could be excluded from the divine influence of God's inspiration. The whole of the Bible is for us the Word of God. We cannot regard the Bible as a mixture of God's Word and merely human thoughts or opinions." (Vol. III, p. 39)
The Roman Catholic Bible corresponds approximately to our own Bible. It is nothing else than a different translation of the same Word of God. Jerome revised the New Testament and the Psalter of the Old Latin text "Itala Vetus" and translated directly from the Hebrew or Aramaic all other books with the exception of Wisdom, Ecclesias-ticus, Baruch and the two books of the Maccabees which he left untouched in the Old Latin version because he said that they were not canonical or inspired. The work of Jerome lasted from 383 to about 406 A. D., and was undertaken at the command of pope Damasus. The Council of Trent ordered the Vulgate to be recognized as "authentic (authoritative) in public readings, disputations, preachings and expositions." As such it is believed by Catholics to be in accordance substantially with the originals which were lost and consequently it does not contain any error about faith or morals. The Vulgate was later translated into English by exiled English priests and educators who printed the New Testament at Rheims in 1582, and the Old Testament at Douay in 1609-10, and for this reason is called "Rheims and Douay Version." Revised by Bishop Challoner in 1750, it has since remained the official Catholic Bible for English speaking people.
Generally speaking, there is not much difference between the King James version and the Roman Catholic translation of the Bible. In fact, as far as the New Testament is concerned both have exactly 27 books, while there is some difference about the Old Testament, the Roman Catholics having 46 books instead of 39 as there should be.1
(1) For the benefit of those who have no acquaintance with the Roman Catholic version of the Bible we list here the 46 books with their names, indicating in brackets the proper name used in our Bible. Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue (Joshua), Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings), 1 and 2 Paralipomenon (1 and 2 Chronicles), 1 and 2 Esdras (Ezra, Nehemiah), Tobias, Judith, Ester, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles (Song of Solomon), Wisdom, Ecclesi-asticus, Isaias (Isaiah), Jeremias (Jeremiah), Lamentations, Baruch, Ezechiel (Ezekiel), Daniel, Osee (Hosea), Joel, Amos, Abdias (Obadiah), Jonas (Jonah), Micheas (Micah), Nahum, Habacuc (Habakkuk), Sophonias (Zephaniah), Aggeus (Haggai), Zacharias (Zechariah), Malachias (Malachi), 1 and 2 Machabees. New Testament: The Gospels of SS. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of Saint Paul to the Romans, Corinthians (2), Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians (2), Timothy (2), Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews; the Epistles of SS. James, Peter (2), John (3) and Jude, the Apocalypse of St. John (Revelation). (A Catholic Dictionary, p. 59)
The name apocryphal (hidden) was used by early ecclesiastical writers to describe secret or mysterious matters, things of unknown origin, forged or spurious. It also means unrecognized, uncanonical in reference to those books of the Old Testament whose place in the canon was not admitted by the Jewish Church who considered them uninspired. The Apocryphal books were produced between about 250 B. C. and somewhere in the early Christian centuries. They are not found in the Hebrew canon; they are never quoted by Jesus; and it cannot with certainty be affirmed that the apostles ever directly allude to them. The early churches permitted them to be read for edification, and recommended them to the catechumens for study, but rejected them from the canon. On the contrary, the Council of Trent at its sitting on April 8, 1546, declared the following apocryphal books to be canonical or inspired and containing the rule of faith and morals revealed by God: Tobias, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Machabees, with additions to the books of Esther (ver. 4 of chap. X to XVI) and Daniel (ver. 24 of chap. III to ver. 3 of chap. IV and chaps. XIII and XIV). The Council pronounced an anathema against anyone who ventured to differ from it in opinion. This has since regulated the belief of the Roman Catholic Church. (The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p. 33)
The reason Romanists have accepted those apocryphal books as authentic and inspired is because they wanted to defend some fantastic doctrines which cannot be found in the canonical books of the Bible. For instance, in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 there is insinuated the idea that is good and holy to pray for the dead and that the prayers of the living may shorten the pains of the departed, a thing totally unknown in the Sacred Scriptures. In 2 Maccabees 15:12 is narrated a dream or vision, in which Jeremiah, long dead, is pictured as praying for the people of the holy city and helping them. This is quoted by the Roman Catholics as authority for invoking the dead to intercede for them, thus giving ground to the doctrine of the mediation of the saints and Mary. Likewise, in the book of Tobias 6:1-8 an angel of God is represented as directing him in the practice of incantations and augury. This fact has brought Romanists to the institution of the feast of Saint Raphael, Archangel, and to the belief in the ceaseless ministry of the angels in behalf of men. No such extravagant notions are to be found in the canonical books in which magical incantations have been forbidden and condemned (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10-14).
Besides, in the book of Judith we have a narrative full of inconsistencies, mis-statements, anachronisms, and geographical absurdities which make the story at a complete variance with the inspired records, and therefore it is doubtful if there is in it any truth at all. In general, all the apocryphal books show human authorship, uncertainty of language, variation of facts, disclaim of inspiration. Wherefore, it can be said in all truth that the Apocrypha found in the Douay version are spurious and uninspired and cannot be called "Deuterocanonical books" as if they were included in the canon in a second time. The internal evidences marked by an absolute absence of prophetic teaching or divine revelation and church history are against a similar hypothesis. (The Bible vs. Romanism, by A. N. Trice, p. 44)
IS THE CHURCH BEFORE THE BIBLE?
It is a general belief of the Roman Catholics that their has given us the Bible, making an unreasonable distinction between the priority of the Church and the time in which the Bible was written down. In other words, to them the Bible comes next and follows the Church, claiming that she not only existed before the Bible, but was the mother of it. In fact, Father John O'Brien, in The Faith of Millions, after demonstrating that Christ wrote nothing and did not command the apostles to write anything, states that the Church "is not the child of the Bible, as many non-Catholics imagine, but its mother. She derives neither her existence nor her teaching authority from the New Testament. She had both before the New Testament was born: she secured her being, her teachings, her authority directly from Jesus Christ." (p. 146)
Nothing could be further from the truth. We know that God is the same author of the Church and of the Bible, and therefore there cannot be priority or distinction between that divine institution and the Word of God contained in the Scriptures. In the first dispensation, from Adam to Moses, there was an embryonal church based on the primitive revelation transmitted from mouth to mouth; in the second dispensation, from Moses to Christ, the church was nothing else than the written revelation in the third and final dispensation, from Christ to now and till the end of the world, the church is the spiritual body of Jesus, firmly and permanently established by the apostles with divine right upon the words that they heard from him. In fact, in Matthew 28: 18-20 we read: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." During the apostolic age the New Testament, orally preached in the beginning under the assistance of the Holy Ghost, was later completely written by inspired men in Greek, except perhaps for the gospel of Matthew written in Aramaic, and for three hundred years even the Church of Rome used that book and that language. In fact, the most noted and ancient manuscripts in our possession (as Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus) are written in Greek and have been found within the boundaries of the Eastern Church. To these may be added many other Greek Bibles and versions in Syriac (150 A. D.), Egyptian (second cent.), Ethiopic (4th cent.), Armenian (4th cent.) and Gothic (4th cent.) Therefore, the Roman affirmation that we have received the Bible through that Church is a falsification of facts without any serious and reasonable basis. Long before the Church of Rome was organized the Bible was in existence and preserved throughout the centuries in the Greek language and in other versions. Romanists can claim only the Latin Vulgate and the preservation of that faulty translation. The authority of the Bible is above any church and transcends all traditions which, as in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, have distorted or changed the simple and divine meaning of the Scriptures.
VALUE OF THE BIBLE IN CATHOLIC HANDS
Although Roman Catholics believe that the Bible is inspired and contains the revelation of God unto men, nonetheless its religious authority is conditioned to the restrictive dispositions imposed by their Church. Objectively considered the Bible is for them nothing more than a "dead book" whose spiritual value does not surpass the intellectual influence which can be exercised by any literary book. In order that it might become a source of truth and faith the Bible must not be separated from the Church. For this reason Catholics have no right to interpret it by them-selves, neither read it without ecclesiastical approval. The Church, and the Church alone has the power to define its canonicity, inspiration and interpretation. Here is how Rev. W. H. Anderson in a tract entitled "What is the Bible?" explains the position of the Roman Church concerning the Scripture:
"Because it never was a Bible, till the infallible Church pronounced it to be so. The separate treatises, each of them inspired, were lying, as it were dispersedly; easily to confound with others, that were uninspired. The Church gathered them up, selected them, pronounced judgment on; rejecting some, which she defined and declared not be canonical because not inspired; adopting others as inspired, and therefore canonical." (p. 6)
Cardinal Gibbons, in The Faith of Our Fathers, writes: "The canonicity of the Holy Scriptures rests solely on the authority of the Catholic Church." (p. 249) And Father Conway, in his "Question Box" states: "It is only by the divine authority of the Catholic Church that Christians know that the Scripture is the Word of God, and what books certainly belong to the Bible." (p. 46) Finally, Cardinal Gibbons expounds in its simplest form the true standing of the Romanists on this matter as follows:
"The Church is the only divinely constituted teacher of Revelation. Now, the Scripture is the great depository of the Word of God. Therefore, the Church is the divinely appointed Custodian and Interpreter of the Bible. For, her office of infallible Guide were superfluous if each individual could interpret the Bible for himself.... God never intended the Bible to be the Christian's rule of faith independently of the living authority of the Church." (Faith of Our Fathers, p. 77)
Many similar statements could be quoted, but the above are sufficient to demonstrate the kind of authority the Bible has in Roman Catholic hands. It is not surprising at all to know that this divine book has been considered spiritually useless by Romanists whose chief means of salvation is centered in the priestly ministry. According to them the Church may exist and save without the Bible, while the Bible cannot exist and save without the Church. And yet they proclaim it to be the true Word of God revealed unto the world, pretending to support all their doctrines with Scripture references. Is not this that kind of absurd reasoning which is purposely made in order to confound the minds of the simple people and in which the Roman Catholic Church has proved to be incomparable master and teacher?
BIBLE READING AMONG CATHOLICS
Apparently, it may seem that the Roman Catholics have been encouraged by their hierarchy in the reading of the Bible. In fact, Father Conway, in his "Question Box" affirms explicitly that "Catholics are not forbidden but encouraged to read the Bible. However, the Catholic Church, as the guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures, must needs prevent her people from being led astray by false translations of the Bible, which are often accompanied by glosses and notes destructive to the Catholic faith. But she never has prohibited versions in vernacular which have been approved by the Bishops of the various countries, and have been edited with explanatory notes by Catholic scholars." (pp. 83-84)
From the above statement it is clear that Romanists are not free to read any version of the Bible, it being a mortal sin to even possess a non-Catholic Bible; and that, if they read an approved Bible, it must be edited with explanatory notes by Catholic scholars. Naturally, with such limitations Catholics are hindered to make any scientific research or inquiry by themselves and, consequently, they can never know the truth.
Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical on the Bible (1893), wrote: "By reading the Scriptures the intelligence will be illuminated and strengthened...and at the same time the heart will grow warm and will strive with ardent longing to advance in virtue and divine love." He also granted 300 days of indulgence to the faithful who spend at least a quarter of hour daily for thirty days in reading the Holy Scripture.
The present pope, Pius XII, has said: "We firmly hope that in the future reverence for, as well as the use and knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures will everywhere more and more increase for the good of souls."
Nevertheless, in spite of all these favorable expressions, it is a fact that the Roman Catholic Church has been always opposed to the reading of the Bible down through the ages. In 1229 A. D., for instance, the Bible was forbidden to the "laity" by the Council of Toulouse with the following decree: "We forbid also the permitting of the laity to have the books of the Old and New Testament, unless any should wish, from a feeling of devotion, to have a psalter or breviary for divine service. But we must strictly forbid them to have the above-mentioned books in the vulgar tongue." (History of the Councils, vol. ii, part I, col. 425)
Furthermore, the Council of Trent (Canons 9 to 14) stooped so low as to anathematize (curse) all those who believe in the private interpretation of the Bible. The same Council exalted tradition above the Bible in such a way that without the help of tradition the Scriptures are not better than a piece of pagan literature. The conclusion is that the divine Revelation has been completely supplanted by the so-called "living voice of the Church," so that practically Roman Catholics have no need of the Bible which is considered to be a private property of the clergy.
Again, pope Pius VIII, in 1829, denounced the circulation of the Bible in vernacular tongue as a "crafty device" and "a nefarious scheme threatening everlasting ruin." Pope Leo XII (Ubi Primas, 1824) described Protestant Bible Societies as "strutting with effrontery through the world." Pope Gregory XVI was particularly severe in condemning the Protestant Bible Societies in his encyclical olic believers and turn their minds away from the holiness non-Catholics of various denominations try to ensnare Cath-letter Inter Praecipuas, published in the year 1844, where he said:
"Among the chief machinations by which in our times of their faith, a prominent place is held by the Bible societies. These societies, first instituted in England and since extended far and wide, we now behold in battle array, conspiring to translate the books of divine Scripture into all the popular languages, to issue immense number of copies, to spread them indiscriminately among Christians and heathen, and to entice every individual to read them without any guidance.
"Having, therefore, taken into consultation several cardinals of the Holy Roman Church...we again condemn with our Apostolic authority all Bible Societies censored by our predecessors... Be it known that all that lend their names or their help to such societies will be of a grave crime before God and Church. Moreover, confirm and by our Apostolic authority renew the commands already given against the publication, distribution, reading and keeping of Scripture translated into the vernacular... At the same time it will be our duty to snatch out of the hands of the faithful all Bibles translated into people's language."
Continuing the policy of his predecessors, pope Pius IX (Qui Pluribus, 1864) considered as "an old device of heretics" the giving of the Bible to the people translated in their own tongues. (Converted Catholic Novem., 1951)
These are the authoritative testimonies of the Roman Catholic Church on the reading of the Bible. Can it be said that the opposition of the Romanists to the use of the Bible is a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of ignorant non-Catholic people?
POINTS OF AGREEMENT AND DISAGREEMENT
We heartily agree with Roman Catholics that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is inspired, and that it is the basis for the Christian way of life. But we cannot agree with them in the acceptance of the Church as the infallible interpreter of the Bible, especially when for church is meant the Pope. Christians reject this position both on historical grounds and on the basis of personal experience. They believe that the New Testament preceded and paved the way for what we know today as the Church of Christ. Although orally transmitted in the beginning, the truth of the gospel was secured by the inspiration and infallibility of the living voice of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals. Later they wrote personally or through other disciples what they had formerly preached in many places in order to preserve in its purity and simplicity the divine message of Christ for the future Christian generations. If it had not been for the letters of Paul, the Gospels, and the book of Revelation, there might have been no Church at all, since a variety of churches were held together by the inspiration and admonitions of the various letters and messages. (Primer on Roman Catholicism, by Stanley Stuber, p. 115)
On the basis of personal experience, Christians understand that the "Gospel...is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth... For the justice of God is revealed therein, from faith unto faith." Rom. 1:16-17. Christians, therefore, have no need of an official interpreter. The Word of God speaks by itself directly unto them from the marvelous pages of the Bible. In the same way that the New Testament books were written in the popular language in order to meet the spiritual needs of the early Christians, so they should be reverently received and earnestly studied today. The Bible is the revelation of God unto men and contains a great fountain of spiritual power. From it all believers may receive light, grace, courage, comfort, peace and salvation. Independently from all priests and churches they see in it the radiating Spirit of Christ, calling all men unto him through the simple but fascinating words of the Scripture.Back to Table of Contents
PLACE OF TRADITION IN THE ROMAN CHURCH
Since the Roman Catholic Church is built mostly on Tradition, it is necessary to explain the meaning and doctrine of it in such a way that our Catholic friends may understand the reasonableness of our irreconcilable position against this so-called second source of truth and faith. As we have seen in the preceding chapter, Romanists do not believe in the Bible as the only guide or rule of faith and morals. They are convinced of the idea that the Scripture does not contain the full revelation of God, and therefore they add to it an alleged Tradition which is believed to have been committed unto the Church as another means of religious authority. Father Conway, in his Question Box, p. 53, puts it in this way: "The origin of our faith is not the Bible alone, but the Church which gives us both the written and unwritten word." In a certain sense, Catholics claim that Tradition is more important than the Bible itself, because it is said to be prior, larger and more useful and necessary than the written Word of God. According to Cardinal Newman, "Tradition is partly the interpretation, partly the supplement of Scripture." (Lectures on Romanism, p. 329) And Cardinal Bellarmine states: "We assert that the whole doctrine concerning faith or manners is not contained explicitly in the Scriptures; and that consequently beyond the Word of God, is required also the unwritten Word of God, that is, the Divine and Apostolic Traditions." (De Verbo Dei, vol. iv, chap. 3)
TRADITION ABOVE SCRIPTURE
It is interesting to know that many Roman Catholic theologians, with the purpose of defending their mother Church in everything, have exalted Tradition above the Scripture in a manner that they have gone far beyond the definition of the Council of Trent, in which Tradition was placed on equal basis with the Scripture. Let us examine a few examples:
In his Outlines of Dogmatic Theology the Jesuit, Father Hunter, says: "The Church could dispense with Holy Scriptures, but cannot dispense with Tradition — Tradition is of a wider scope and more necessary." (Vol. 1, pp. 153-155)
Father DuBois affirms: "Today we (Roman Catholics) live one-tenth on the Bible, and nine-tenths on Tradition. The Bible perhaps does not contain all essential truths. Tradition is greater than the word of the Bible." (O Biblismi, Para, 1921, p. 96)
Finally, the Rev. Dr. Shanz, in his Christian Apology, writes: "The truth of Holy Scripture cannot be erected into norma of interpretation, except through the instrumentality of Tradition. Tradition is the well-spring and head. With it rests the decision. It alone can sit the faith and keep it firm. For this task Scripture is incompetent." (Vol. iii, p. 368)
With such statements Romanists have reached an opposite side from us concerning the rule of faith and morals. While we believe in the Bible alone, they stand for Tradition alone. What a change!
MEANING OF TRADITION
Tradition comes from two Latin words: trans, over, and dare, to give, and means a giving-up, a delivery; an instruction by word of mouth; an oral transmission of information, beliefs, or customs from ancestors to posterity without written records. Theologically, the term is used for the sum of revealed truths which have not been committed to Sacred Scripture, but handed down by a series of legitimate pastors of the Church from age to age. The Baltimore Catechism defines Tradition in this way: "Tradition is the unwritten Word of God—that body of truths revealed by God to the Apostles, and not committed by them to writing, but handed down by word of mouth. These truths, which were later committed to writing, particularly by the Fathers of the Church, have been preserved and handed down to the present day."
The above definition is in accordance with the Council of Trent which, in 1546, declared in a special session (the 4th) that Tradition should be regarded as divine authority on equal basis with the Scripture:
"The sacred and holy, ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost...keeping this always in view, that errors being removed, the purity itself of the gospel be preserved in the Church; which (gospel) afore promised through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline as contained in the written books, and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even to us, transmitted, as it were, from hand to hand; the Synod following the example of the orthodox fathers, receives and venerates with equal pious affection and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments—seeing that one God is the author of both—as also the said Traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, whether by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by continuous succession."
Likewise, the Catechism of the same Council declares: "The whole of doctrine to be delivered to the faithful, is contained in the Word of God, which is distributed into Scripture and Tradition." (Catech. Trid., Preface xii)
However, the doctrine of Tradition being fundamental to the Catholic belief, Romanists have felt the necessity to support this dogma with many references from the Scripture and Christian Antiquity.
TESTIMONY OF THE SCRIPTURE
First of all, Catholics appeal to the Patriarchal dispensation, from Adam to Moses, in which the unwritten revelation was transmitted from parents to children by means of oral tradition. But, even when the revealed truths were written down by Moses, according to them, there remained many oral traditions mentioned in the Old Testament as, for instance, we may read in Deut. 32:7: "Remember the days of old: think upon every generation. Ask thy father, and he will declare to thee; thy elders and they will tell thee." And in Ps. 43:2 (44:1): "We have heard, O God, with our ears: our fathers have declared to us, the work thou hast wrought in their days, and in the days of old."
From these and other passages Catholics deduce that in the Old Testament time people were told to follow certain traditions besides the written Word of God, and, therefore, Tradition must be considered as an independent source of truth and faith. Needless to say that such an assumption is simply foolish for the following reasons: (1) We are living under the New Testament and have nothing to do with the Old Covenant provisions; (2) the quoted passages do not support at all the Tradition held by Romanists. They have been completely misinterpreted, being nothing else than a recollection of the benefits of God in behalf of his chosen people, which the parents recounted to their children who were told by the inspired writers to ask for this recounting. What parents and elders said on those occasions was already a matter of holy records, and not a Tradition separated from the Scripture.
Concerning the New Testament, Roman Catholics do not show any better understanding nor offer any valuable proof in demonstrating their thesis that Tradition was used as an independent source of revelation either by Jesus or the apostles. They repeat the same story that Christ neither wrote nor commanded his disciples to write anything about the truths that He announced. In this sense, they quote Matt. 10:7: "And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand." And again Matt. 28:19-20: "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Luke 10:16: "He that heareth you heareth me." So, Christ, according to Romanists, commanded to teach, to preach, but not to write.
Besides, in the letters of Paul there are many expressions which Catholics produce as a demonstration that the oral Tradition should be accepted as the true Word of God independently from the Scripture. In this way they interpret the following passages: 1 Thess. 2:13: "Because, that when you have received of us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God." 2 Thess. 2:14 (15): "Hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle." Rom. 10:17: "Faith then cometh by hearing: and hearing by the word of God." 2 Tim. 1:13: "Hold the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me." 2 Tim. 2:2: "And the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men who shall be fit to teach others also." So, Catholics conclude that the oral traditions have equal value and authority with the Bible, a deduction which is completely out of place because no one has ever doubted the inspiration of the apostolic teachings. What we deny and oppose is that the related passages may be used in proving that kind of Tradition, imposed by the Roman Church in order to support its man-made doctrines.
We wonder sometimes how it is possible that people who are supposed to be intelligent and learned in all things may employ such a childish reasoning in proving their tenets. Jesus Christ, even according to Romanists, was God and embodied the divine revelation he was announcing to the people in his teaching, and therefore he had no need at all to write nor to command to write. Nevertheless, in so doing, he did not commit his message to a precarious Tradition or uninspired men. He recognized the importance and exclusive authority of the Scriptures in such a way that on every occasion he appealed to it, condemning with unequivocal terms the foolish traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. To Satan, who tempted him, he answered three times pointing directly to the words of the Scripture: "It is written." Matt. 4:1-10. In the sermon of the mountain he recalled before the multitude the law and the prophets with words that Romanists themselves could use in supporting their doctrine of Tradition: "You have heard that it was said to them of old." Matt. 5:27. Jesus here does not mention writing or reading, and yet he was quoting passages from the written records.
The same thing can be said about the apostles in general and the expressions of Paul in particular. Jesus Christ entrusted all his power and authority (Matt. 28:18) to the apostles unto whom was promised the Holy Spirit in order to give them inspiration and inerrancy in matters of salvation. What they said was therefore a revelation of God which they proclaimed unto the world during their lifetime. They had no need to write because they represented the New Testament by means of inspiration. In the beginning they only preached the word, but, realizing that some day they had to die, before their departure from the earth each wrote down, or commanded some disciples to do so, all the things necessary for our salvation and Christian betterment. With their death the age of revelation was closed and all traditions which were not in accordance with the written records were considered spurious and consequently refused. Upon which Scriptures therefore can the Roman Catholic Church substantiate the doctrine of Tradition?
TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIAN ANTIQUITY
For Christian Antiquity Roman Catholics understand the body of traditions preserved in the following monuments: (1) History of the Roman Church; (2) the Liturgies and Rituals of the Roman Church; (3) Archeology concerning the relics of the early Christian art and customs; (4) Definitions of doctrines, and anathemas passed against errors; (5) the Writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
According to Romanists all these monuments contain that true divine Tradition which the Council of Trent promoted as having equal authority with the Bible and which was later placed above the Scriptures by the official teaching of the Church. Especially in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors, they say, there can be found statements supporting Tradition as an infallible source of revelation independent from the Bible. Among the apostolic Fathers they quote Ignatius Martyr and Polycarp who both taught the following of the traditions of the apostles as a criterion for avoiding heresies and errors. Particularly Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, writing to the Philippians, said: "You must come back to the doctrine which was transmitted to us from the beginning by the Apostles, refusing all errors and false teachings." (chap. 7) Testifying of him, Eusebius declares that Polycarp taught only what he learned from the mouth of the blessed apostles and that which the true Church holds everywhere. (Historia Eccles., book iv, chap. 14)
In the second century Irenaeus asserted that everyone should receive without discussion the old traditions preserved in the churches of Christ. In this sense, in his book, Against Heresies, he wrote that the only way to be in unity with the Church is to be in accordance with the traditions which were transmitted by the apostles to their disciples and preserved by the elders of the various churches to the present time. Such traditions can be found, he said, in all Christian churches and especially in those established or taught personally by the apostles. (Vol. 13, chap. 2-4)
From the third century on, Romanists say, the doctrine of Tradition was taught clearly and firmly by all Fathers and particularly by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and others.
However, against the argument of Christian Antiquity it is very easy to demonstrate that the Fathers of the Church frequently refer to the gospel as that "that comes down from the apostles, which has been kept as a sacred deposit in the churches of the apostles." Apostolic traditions and gospel was used indifferently by the early Fathers to mean the one and the same deposit of divine revelation, namely the New Testament. Certainly they had not the remotest idea to support the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Tradition as defined in the Council of Trent. They were concerned with defending and preserving the New Testament in its purity and considered it indiscriminately as apostolic tradition in the same sense that Paul employs the expression in 2 Thess. 2:14 (15): "Hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle." It was a generic term indicating both oral and written teaching. From the word of Paul it is not possible to understand that different instructions were given in the two methods. Coming from an inspired preacher both Tradition and Epistle had to be accepted as a whole with the same reverence and authority. Even Romanists are forced to recognize this. In fact, Dr. Schanz, the same that in his Christian Apology exalts Tradition above the Bible, freely admits: "The very Fathers who, in some passages, mention Scripture alone as God's word, elsewhere speak of Tradition in similar terms. They looked upon the two as inseparable, and as giving expression to the same divine truth that was preached from the beginning." (p. 388)
There are only two or three passages in the Fathers where Tradition is aligned with Scripture as an independent source, but in each case it is made unmistakably evident that the independent authority of Tradition concerns matters of discipline and practice, not matters of faith. (G. L. Prestige, Tradition in Theology, July, 1926) The Fathers certainly affirm everywhere that nothing can be orthodox which is not scriptural, and therefore when they speak about Tradition they mean not the oral but the written revelation of God contained in the New Testament.
ROMANISTS CHANGED THE MEANING OF TRADITION
The fundamental marks attached to the old meaning of Tradition were exposed successfully in the little book— The Commonitorium of Vincent of Lerins (5th cent.) — which became in the West the classical work on the doctrinal authority of the Church. What the faithful son of the Church is to ask for, is the faith which has been held in the great Church, "everywhere, always, and by all"— "everywhere" by contrast to what can show local prevalence; "always" by contrast to what is novel; "by all" in contrast to what is merely the opinion of an individual, however great. It is a fact that there is nothing of importance, nothing which concerns the faith of an ordinary Christian, which can be shown to have been always in the Tradition and which is not also implied in the New Testament. (Reconstruction of Belief, by Gore, part iii, p. 900)
The above—which indisputably represents the unanimous mind of the Fathers—is a very conservative position. It gives a very restrictive meaning to the authority of the Church. However, the time came when the authoritarian spirit of the Roman Church chafed against such a restriction. In fact, it found itself committed to Medieval doctrines which had not much support in Antiquity, and none in Scripture. So the Council of Trent sanctioned the idea of Tradition as an independent fount of doctrine besides Scripture. And whereas the idea of Tradition suggests researches into the past and the verifying and correcting of the present by the past, this restraint also upon the authority of the living voice came to be viewed with jealousy or openly repudiated. The present living voice of the Church is enough; and the Church has been given in the successor of Peter a centre and seat of final authority. Thus we find recent Roman authorities on history (Franze-lin and Batiflol) refusing any longer to accept Vincent of Lerins' rule, because the facts of history make it impossible to maintain (what still remains the official claim) that the present teaching of the Roman Church is covered by the appeal to antiquity—by the quod semper (always) and the quod ubique (everywhere). Thus the idea of the authority of the Church has been centralized, freed from limitations, and rendered peremptory and absolute in the Latin tradition. (Commentary on Holy Scripture, by Gore, Goudge and Guillaume, pp. 16-17)
THE ORGANS OF TRADITION
The Roman Church calls organs of Tradition the various voices by which the Catholic faith is expressed, namely pope, bishops and, in a certain sense, the faithful.
(1) The pope, who is infallible when he defines ex cathedra (from the chair) a truth concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
(2) Bishops, who enjoy the same privilege of infallibility when, under the Roman Pontiff, alone or united in council, they unanimously propose a certain doctrine to be believed by all.
(3) The faithful, who also may enjoy the privilege of infallibility when, united with their legitimate pastors (priests, bishops and pope), they almost unanimously believe some doctrine or practice as a de fide (of faith) matter. (Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae, Tanquerey, vol. 1, p. 645)
The organs of Tradition constitute the so-called Magisterium of the Church which is defined as follows: "The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truth of religion, 'Going therefore, teach all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.'" Matt. 28:19-20. This teaching is considered infallible because of the promise of Jesus: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (ibid.)
The Magisterium (from Latin magister, a master) is solemn and ordinary. The solemn Magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or ecumenical coun-pltils. The ordinary Magisterium is continually exercised by the Church, especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers and theologians, in the decisions of Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, and various historical documents, in which the faith is declared. (A Catholic Dictionary, p. 319)
CATHOLIC MEANING OF DOGMA
When speaking about dogma Romanists do not accept the vulgar notion of it, as an arbitrary doctrine imposed and commanded to be believed. What they really mean by dogma is a truth directly proposed by the Church for belief as an article of divine revelation. Originally, it was an opinion or proposition put as a postive assertion, its truth being supposed to have been previously shown. Usually Catholics take a great care in stating that the content of a dogma is truth revealed by God and therefore must be believed; it is not found in the assumption that it is true because many believe it, they say. The Church, according to them, in defining a doctrine, which must be believed and accepted by the faithful as a revelation of God, does not create a new teaching, but merely clarifies what is already contained in the Scripture and implicitly believed, although not fully understood. In this way, Fathers Rumble and Carty explain the two dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Infallibility of the Pope: "Both doctrines were believed in so far as Catholics believed in the revelation I given by Christ, which contained these doctrines implicitly. I When the Church defined them she merely made explicit and of faith what had been hitherto implicit. She gave, not a new truth, but merely made these matters clear by defining these doctrines to be part of the revelation brought to us by Christ." (Radio Replies, vol. 1, p. 93)
Despite the more or less reasonable explanations made by the Roman Church in expounding the true meaning of the dogma, it is a fact that there is no scriptural authority supporting the Catholic custom of defining new dogmas. On the contrary, all the truths contained in the Bible are clear enough to be understood and followed without any further definition of the Church. All believers may easily find in it the fundamentals of Christianity by themselves, because the holy writers taught them with a simplicity and a clearness not to be found in any human book. God has fully revealed his will once and for all through Jesus Christ and his apostles, and to expect definitions of new dogmas today would mean a lack of faith in the completeness of the Scriptures, a thing which has led Romanists to accept Tradition as a primary source and rule of faith and morals.
Besides, the Roman Catholic doctrine on dogma has been so far in contradiction with the practice of the Church. In fact, in the definition of many dogmas, especially the last one about the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, there was neither Scripture nor early Tradition supporting those so-called implicit beliefs, and yet the Church defined them as revealed truths to be believed as matter of faith. For this very reason we may say that the faith of Catholics has not yet been stabilized, but is always subject to fluctuations and increases thus destroying that sense of firmness and assurancy that should be the most important mark of any rule of faith.
BIBLE AND FATHERS AGAINST TRADITION
The best criticism of the Roman Catholic doctrine or dogma of Tradition is to be found in the Bible and in the very writings of the Church Fathers claimed by Romanists as advocating their own belief in it. A fair glance at the gospels brings us to the conclusion that Jesus Christ has always been an irreconcilable enemy of man-made traditions. Reproaching scribes and Pharisees he made statements such as these: "Why do you transgress the commandments of God for your tradition? — And you have made the commandments of God for your tradition. — And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men." Matt. 15:3-9. In order to be always in accordance with the Word of God, it is necessary to not introduce innovations or changes of any kind, but to be faithful to the commandments of God. Again Jesus said: "For leaving the commandments of God, you hold the tradition of men." Mark 7:8. The complaint of Christ is justified by the fact that tradition cannot go along with the Scripture, as he explains in Mark 7:13: "Making void the word of God by your own tradition, which you have given forth." Could Jesus Christ be more explicit in condemning the Roman Catholic doctrine on Tradition?
Likewise, the apostles, following the example of the Lord, warned Christians of the danger of Tradition. Paul admonished firmly the disciples at Corinth not to go "above that which is written." 1 Cor. 4:6. To the Colossians 2:8 he wrote to be watchful against the impostures of the I philosophers and the Jewish traditions that would withdraw them from Christ: "Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men...and not according to Christ." Again the apostle affirmed that before his conversion he was "more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers," (Gal. 1:14) but that after his conversion all such things he "counted as loss for Christ." Phil. 3:7. Also Peter spoke against Tradition when he wrote that men are redeemed not by the "vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ." 1 Pet. 1:18-19.
Moreover, all the Fathers of the Church, contrary to the Roman Catholic belief, have in every occasion refused to recognize Tradition as an independent source of authority when it was not identified with or at least in accordance with the Scriptures. So, Basil wrote: "Without doubt it is a most manifest fall from faith, and a most evident sign of pride, to introduce anything that is not written in the Scriptures...and to detract from Scripture or to add anything to the faith that is not there, is most manifestly forbidden by the apostle's saying: If it be but a man's testament, no man addeth thereto." (De Fide, vol. 2, p. 313)
In a letter to Stephen, bishop of Rome, who declared that no innovation could be made upon Tradition, Cyprian said: "Whence comes that tradition? Does it descend from the authority of our Lord and the Gospels? Does it come from the commands and Epistles of the Apostles? God testifies that we must do the things that are written, saying to Joshua: The book of the law shall not depart from thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written in it." (Epist. 74, Ad Pompeiurri)
Finally Jerome, the great Catholic translator of the Bible, in his treatise Adversus Helvetium, writes: "As we accept those things that are written, so we reject those things that are not written." And elsewhere says: "These things which they invent, as if by Apostolic tradition, without the authority of Scripture, the sword of God smites." (Agg. Proph., chap. 1, 11)
The above statements from a few Church Fathers, who are supposed to be among the most important authorities in the Roman Church, should be sufficient to show our Catholic friends the weak foundation upon which is built the doctrine of Tradition which is Scripturally wrong and historically false. We have shown with abundance of facts the inconsistency of this fundamental tenet of the Roman Catholic Church from which have come all the erroneous doctrines held today, and therefore we respectfully urge our friends to wholly reject Tradition, because of its human origin and imperfectness, because it is neither apostolic nor divine, because Christ discussed Tradition only to condemn it and to warn Christians to protect themselves from the dreadful ruin that it may cause to their souls. We can be assured that only when Tradition will be thoroughly discarded by all as an independent source of truth and an infallible rule of faith and morals, Christianity may be once again restored to its primitive unity.Back to Table of Contents
THE ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES
After having demonstrated the untenable position of the Roman Catholic Church on the Bible and Tradition, it is time to ask our Catholic friends for a fair and thorough examination of our own standard of faith and morals which is the Bible, and the Bible alone. It is imperative to establish a definite and authoritative guide upon which our conscience may depend with certainty in all religious matters, thus avoiding the danger of being led astray by uninspired sources based on human tradition. Men, however good and honest they are, can deceive us in every way. Hidden behind the appearance of religion and covered by a mantle of false holiness, sweet-spoken people have from time immemorable attracted and lured simple-minded multitudes toward beliefs which, although claimed as divine, are in reality an expression of man's authority. Neither priestly garments nor papal luxurious vestments can substitute the divine value that comes down from the Bible. No human doctrine or philosophy, however deep and magnificent, can take the place of the Word of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit to chosen men and consigned to writing in order to be used as a complete and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice from generation to generation till the end of the world. There cannot be a different fount of revelation, committed for oral transmission unto men, as Romanists believe, unless it is expressly said in the Holy Scriptures. Otherwise, who could assure us of the dependability of that particular channel? Not the Church, because it is built on the Word of God and can not have more authority than that which has been given to it; not the successors of the apostles, because they were told not to go "above that which is written;" not any other human being, because he would be requested to show his divine credentials, namely miracle and prophecy. Who could, therefore, give us more reliability than the Bible? Not even God who expects us to consider the Scriptures as his holy word, containing inspiration and guidance, the revelation of his Son, and finally the way to eternal salvation.
NECESSITY OF AN INFALLIBLE GUIDE
In the bottom of all human souls there is an instinctive aspiration toward something which is stable, definite, absolute, and infallible. This is especially true when speaking about spiritual matters. Jesus Christ, calling men to a supernatural life, had to leave them an infallible guide which would direct them without error and doubt to everlasting salvation. Such a guide cannot reside in men, because they are by nature changeable and perishable; it cannot reside in a religious organization, because this is subject to the same limitations that handicap the work of men. Neither can it be said that it is the result of the written and unwritten revelation, because it has been proved that both are often in contradiction between themselves. A guide such as this requires a religious authority which is perfect, complete, universal, easy to be understood by all everywhere and in every time, fit to satisfy all spiritual aspirations of men, and to settle all religious controversies which may arise. Certainly a similar guide cannot be found in anything else but in God Himself, "who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son." Hebrews 1:1-2. Now, all the revelation of God to man has been written down and is preserved in the Holy Scriptures, which are all-sufficient as a rule of faith and morals and which constitute for all Christians the only true and infallible guide in their religious life.
CATHOLIC RULE OF FAITH HUMAN AND MUTABLE
As we know, Romanists believe in two sources of divine revelation, namely Bible and Tradition. But, in order that both may become rule or norma of faith and morals, they must pass through the crucible of the Church, the only authoritative voice and absolute master in religious matters. In this way, the Church is placed above the Scriptures and therefore above God himself who is the author of the Bible. The divine revelation has no value in itself independently from the living authority of the Church, which is vested in an infallible interpreter, the pope, who is the ruling and guiding power of God's kingdom on earth, Christ's vicegerent entrusted personally with legislative, executive and judicial power, the final tribunal or supreme court of appeal in the whole universe.1 For this reason no Catholic can enjoy the right of private or individual interpretation, because only the Church can give the true and authentic interpretation of the Word of God. In fact, the Vatican Council, confirming the decree of the Council of Trent, stated: "In matters of faith and morals pertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of the Sacred Scripture which the Holy Mother Church has held and does hold, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of Holy Scripture, and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the said Scriptures against this sense or, likewise, against the unanimous consent of the Fathers." Forbidden to be guided directly by the Word of God, Catholics are left with a human and fallible guide, the Church. They must follow men rather than God; they must bow their head to the commandments of the pope because the Bible, as Cardinal Gibbons says, "is far from possessing intrinsic evidences of inspiration, it may contain more than the Word of God, or it may not contain all the Word of God." So, the Cardinal concludes, "the Scriptures can never serve as a complete rule of Faith and a complete guide to heaven independently of an authorized, living interpreter." (Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 82-83) But, if the Scripture which is the true revelation of God is not to be trusted, how can our Catholic friends blindly believe in a mere human being who despotically overrules the legislative acts of God and presents his own decisions as a rule of faith and an infallible guide to eternal salvation?
(1) The subjects of the papal authority are both Catholics and non-Catholics who also can be excommunicated. In this respect, the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. V, p. 681, declares: "All who have been baptized are liable to excommunication, even those who have never belonged to the true Church, since by their baptism they are really her subjects, though of course rebellious ones."
Besides, the Roman Catholic rule of faith is mutable, because, based on a human authority, it may change at will. We have already seen the progressive increment of Catholic dogmas and the uncertainty in which Romanists are living about their deposit of revelation which has not yet been fixed and stabilized. History tells us about the shameful failure in many cases of papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals: the condemnation of pope Liberius for having subscribed a semi-Arian confession of faith; the open contradiction between the decrees of pope Gelasius and the Council of Trent concerning the doctrine of transubstan-tiation and the custom of using only bread instead of both elements in the Lord's Supper; the latest infallible pronouncements of Pius XII on the Rotary Club (Jan. 11, 1951) and Birth Control (Oct. 29, 1951) which the same pope was later forced to withdraw or correct under the unexpected and unfavorable reaction of the American Roman Catholics against them. In a word, the history of the Roman Church shows beyond any doubt changes and contradictions of such a nature that its rule of faith cannot be claimed as divine, apostolic and infallible. In no way does it guarantee the integrity, historical value, canonicity and inspiration of the Scriptures, and their usefulness and spiritual assistance to the Christian people. Consequently, the Bible alone can constitute the complete source and organ of revealed truth and the only sure guide for man's salvation.
CATHOLIC DIFFICULTIES EXPLAINED
Since the Protestant Reformation which, stressing the all-sufficiency of the Word of God, made the Bible the sole rule of faith after Wyclif and formulated with Luther the principle of the private interpretation of the Scriptures, Roman Catholic theologians have endeavored to stem the spreading of such radical doctrines with a rather violent criticism which can be synthetized in the following three main points.
(1) Scripture is not accessible to everyone—"A complete guide of salvation must be within the reach of every inquirer after truth; for, God 'wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'; (1 Tim. 2:4) and therefore He must have placed within the reach of everyone the means of arriving at the truth. Now, it is clear that the Scriptures could not at any period have been accessible to everyone." (Faith of Our Fathers, p. 84)
While agreeing with the premise, we deny the inference as a misrepresentation of the facts. Cardinal Gibbons knew better than we may suppose that there has been no period in the history of Christianity in which Scriptures were not available or accessible to everyone. Neither can it be said that people have ever found it difficult to come to the knowledge of God's revelation. It is true that the primitive Christians for a few years had no written records of the New Testament, nevertheless there was at that time the infallible preaching of the apostles through whom the gospel was proclaimed with power unto salvation. That was indeed a glorious period and the true revelation of God was fully communicated by inspired and holy men to all. But, when the New Testament at the end of the apostolic age was completely written down, it was left unto the churches of Christ as the only rule of faith and practice. It is simply foolish to even imagine that the material reading of the Bible is absolutely necessary for the knowledge of God's Word. For many centuries, before the invention of printing, only a few people could own a Bible, it being very difficult and expensive to copy it by hand. We also know that not very many persons were able to read it. Nevertheless, this does not imply that Tradition or the living voice of the Church substituted the authority of the Bible, as Romanists infer. The Scriptures have constituted in every time the infallible source of truth and the only guide for Christians. Christ intended to save people not through reading, but by hearing the evangelists preaching the Word of God and not man-made doctrines. Paul said it very plainly in Rom. 10:17: "Faith then cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." Besides, God has always used intermediary causes for the accomplishment of his holy purposes. The work of gospel ministers is therefore indispensable in order to carry on the Lord's work. No one has ever attempted to deny this. What we deny is the substitution of the Church's authority in the place of the Bible. We do not say that Christians are made by owning or reading the Scriptures, but by complying with the commandments of God contained in the Bible, by doing his holy will manifested unto us only through the Bible no matter if by reading or by hearing it. And it is surely within the reach of everyone to understand the gospel message and to find in it the means of arriving at the truth. The language of New Testament literature is an outstanding example of clearness and simplicity. God has spoken to us in a way that any unprejudiced person can understand with certainty those words of life. Therefore, we may really affirm that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is a complete guide of salvation for all those who want to be saved. (2) Scripture is obscure and unintelligible— "A complete religious guide must be clear and intelligible to all, so that everyone may fully understand the true meaning of instructions it contains. Is the Bible a book intelligible to all? Far from it; it is full of obscurities and difficulties not only for the illiterate, but even for the learned." (Ibid., pp. 85-86) That the above statement is false no one can deny. Cardinal Gibbons, calling the Bible an unintelligible book, stated the true feeling of the Roman Catholic Church toward the Holy Scriptures. They are full of obscurities and difficulties and therefore no one can understand them, not even learned men, Romanists say. But, we would like to ask, if such is the case, how can they assume that their pope speaks infallibly when he presents an official doctrinal interpretation from at book that is so difficult to be understood by everyone? And besides, how can they be sure of the assistance of the Holy Spirit believed to be promised to the successors of Peter when they must prove this from the same obscure Scriptures?
To substantiate their assertion Catholics quote 2 Peter 3:l6, where the apostle says that in the epistles of Paul there are "certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." As usual, Romanists forget that Peter was condemning certain people, unlearned and unstable, who at that time were making troubles among the churches of Christ. They misinterpret the passage in question, generalizing the meaning of the expression "certain things" in "all things," thus putting all the Scriptures on the same level. The conclusion is clear: no one else, except the Roman hierarchy, can interpret lawfully and rightly the Word of God. To support this false assumption is quoted 2 Peter 1:20: "No prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation," which is understood by Romanists as a proof against the private judgment of the Bible, while the apostle was simply stating that the Scriptures are not a product of private men, but the result of the holy men of God who spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in the following verse we read: "For prophecy came not by the will of men at any time: but holy men of God spoke inspired by the Holy Ghost." (1:21) Now, if the Scriptures came from God, how can they be obscure and unintelligible? And, if so, how could men ever know the essential truths concerning their own salvation?
It is true that sometimes the private interpretation of the Bible has led men astray, giving aid to the rise of different denominations doctrinally divided among themselves, but this is not the result of the obscurity or insufficiency of the Scriptures, as Romanists believe; it is rather the sad consequence of the ignorance, pride and ambition of men concerned more about their personal fame than about the establishment of the truth in the world. The principle of private interpretation is based on the spiritual freedom of the individual assured by the Bible, because religion is a matter of choice and not of coercion; it is against the imposition of false tenets by an organized institution and not at all a cause of division and destruction; it helps to build up Christian spirituality against the dogmatic formalism of Roman Catholic theologians. However, private interpretation does not imply capricious positions, liberalistic ideas, or smattering knowledge of the Scriptures, as Catholics suppose; instead, it requires a careful study of the Bible with a full employment of all rules of exegesis and hermeneutics. Alexander Campbell, in his Christian System puts it as follows: "The words and sentences of the Bible are to be translated, interpreted, and understood according to the same code of laws and principles of interpretation by which other ancient writings are translated and understood; for, when God spoke to man in his own language, he spoke as one person converses with another— in the fair, stipulated, and well-established meaning of the terms. This is essential to its character as a revelation from God; otherwise it would be no revelation, but would always require a class of inspired men to unfold and reveal its true sense to mankind." (pp. 15-16)
This is exactly what is happening in the Roman Catholic Church. Having refused to acknowledge the Bible as a clear and sufficient revelation of God, Romanists have need of an infallible man to unveil the true sense of God's Word. Obviously this implies a continual miracle from the side of God which is useless, unreasonable and unscriptural. That is why we invite our Catholic friends to take their Bible, to read and interpret it by themselves, because it is clear and intelligible to all, being sure that everyone can fully understand the fundamental truths contained in it and which are necessary for our spiritual redemption. (3) Scripture is incomplete and insufficient—"A rule of faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice." (Ibid. p. 89)
Once again Cardinal Gibbons insists that the Bible does not contain all the truths and therefore our rule of faith is incomplete and fallacious. Needless to say that such a statement is incorrect and without any basis. For us, it would constitute an unforgivable offense unto God to affirm that his revelation is lacking, thus leaving men without all means to save themselves, and making void the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But for Romanists it seems to be a glorious thing in behalf of God to have committed his revelation partly to writing and partly to oral tradition. And why? Only because Catholics not having enough Scriptures to prove their false tenets are forced to substantiate them with a non-existent divine revelation of which the Roman Church is supposed to be a jealous guardian and Interpreter. And what examples are they quoting in order to support this unwritten revelation? That, for instance, about the sanctification of Sunday in the place of Saturday which, they believe, is a religious observance not authorized by the New Testament, but commanded by the Roman Catholic Church. Evidently Romanists have overlooked the established practice of the apostles to celebrate the first day of the week instead of the Jewish Sabbath as the Christian Way of rest and worship. In Acts 20:7 Luke tells us that the early Christians held their religious services "on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread." The apostle Paul, inviting the Corinthians to lay in store their offering for the brethren "on the first day of the week," (1 Cor. 16:2) makes a clear allusion to the practice of the Christians to meet together in that special day. Finally, the apostle John in his Apocalypse (Rev.) 1:10 refers himself to the first day of the week as the Lord's day, thus manifesting the established practice among the churches of Christ of having their worship and Christian fellowship every Sunday. This practice, therefore, was not introduced by the authority of the Church, but by the inspired and infallible apostles of Jesus Christ, and though there is not an explicit command for it in the New Testament, nevertheless it is a divinely approved apostolic example coming down directly from their inspired ministry. Very likely the change was made in commemoration of the day of the resurrection of Christ and of the day of Pentecost in which the Church was established. The claim of Romanists is therefore a boastful falsehood.
Another example of the incompleteness of the Scriptures, according to Catholics, would be to pray to the Holy Spirit, a practice which is nowhere found in the Bible, but was introduced by the authority of the Church. Such an affirmation certainly shows the lack of better reasons in behalf of an untenable position. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the godhead, proceeding from the Father and from the Son, a doctrine which is also believed by Romanists. Now, if it is lawful to pray unto God, the Father, why should it not be scriptural to pray also unto the Son and unto the Holy Spirit? There is only one God, although existing in three distinct personalities. We must therefore conclude that the difficulties of the Roman Church against the all-sufficiency of the Bible as a complete and perfect rule of faith and morals are very weak and inconsistent. They are neither supported by Scripture nor by reason. On the contrary, we may say with Alexander Campbell that "the Bible is to the intellectual and moral world of man what the sun is to the planets in our system— the fountain and source of light and life, spiritual and eternal." (Christian System, p. 15)
THE BIBLE AS FINAL AND UNCHANGEABLE AUTHORITY
John Wyclif, one of the greatest champions of the Reformation together with Huss and Luther, who, incidentally, were all Roman Catholic priests, stated the true position of Christianity when he said: "The sacred Scriptures contain all truth, all philosophy, all logic, all ethical teaching." It can be affirmed with certainty that in the whole human race there is not a spiritual idea that is not drawn from the Bible. As soon will the philosopher find an independent sunbeam in nature, as the theologian a spiritual conception in man, independent of the one best Book. (Christian System, p. 15) In the Thirty-nine Articles it is declared that the "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith or to be taught requisite or necessary to salvation." Almost with the same words the Westminster Confession states: "The whole council of God, covering all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit or traditions of men."
Condemning the Roman Catholic aversion to translating the Bible in the vernacular tongue, John Wyclif says: "Believers should ascertain by themselves what are the true matters of their faith by having the Scriptures in a language which all may understand for the laws made by prelates are not to be received as matters of faith unless founded on the Scriptures." Besides, Tyndale, giving the reason of the Romanist opposition against the translation of the Bible, writes: "In this way they all be agreed to drive you from the knowledge of Scripture and that you shall not have the text in the mother tongue, and to keep the world in darkness to the extent they might sit in the consciences of the people through vain superstition."
From the above statements flows the conclusion that the Bible alone may really and truly constitute the final authority in religious matters, because, being the complete revelation of God to man, it can offer us an unchangeable and infallible guidance that cannot be found elsewhere. Such a belief is not based on human traditions, but is the logical consequence of Scripture references and of the writings of the Fathers.
BIBLE PROVED BY THE BIBLE
As the final court of appeal, the Bible is the only place where we may invite our Catholic friends to go and find for themselves the authoritative proofs about the all-sufficiency of the Word of God. If they show no trust in the Scriptures, it means that they have no faith in God who is the author of the Bible, and consequently there is no possibility of bringing them unto the truth.
In the gospel of John, Jesus appealed to the Bible as giving eternal life to the Jews and as bearing a divine testimony for himself: "Search the Scriptures: for ye think in them to have life everlasting. And the same are they that give testimony of me." (5:39) In the same occasion Jesus recognized the probative strength of the Scriptures to which only he refers in his continual debates with the Jews: "For if you did believe Moses, you would perhaps believe me also: for he wrote of me." John 5:46. Nowhere did Christ quote Jewish traditions; nay he condemned them as something very evil, as we have already seen previously. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the sufficiency of the Scriptures is again stressed in the following words: "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them." And because the rich man insisted that Abraham should send someone from the dead in order to convince his kindred on earth, father Abraham answered: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead." Luke 16:29-31. Romanists, who insist so much on the living voice of the Church as their rule of faith and morals, should study very well these remarkable passages in which salvation is placed not in the Jewish priesthood or church, but in the written Word of God. They had a high priest, Pontifex Maximus, and a host of other priests and doctors of the law, why did not Abraham send the rich man's relatives to them who constituted the so-called living magisterium of the Church?
Moreover, the apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, shows the special importance of the Scriptures which, containing divine truths, are the revelation of God and have divine authority: "And because from thy infancy thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which can instruct thee to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work." 2 Tim. 3:15-17. Can there be a clearer statement than this one? The Bible is complete and sufficient, able to provide men of all things necessary for their salvation. Again, in Rom. 15:4 the apostle says that "what things soever were written were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of Scriptures, we might have hope." And John, the beloved disciple, in his Apocalypse (Rev. 1:3) wishes heavenly blessings upon all those who read or hear the Word of God and keep the things that are written: "Blessed is he that readeth and heareth the words of this prophecy: and keepeth those things which are written in it." Finally, Jesus in his marvelous prayer to the Father identifies God with the truth and his Word: "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them... Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:14-17. The Word of God has been consigned to Scripture and therefore only in that holy Book we may find truth and eternal life. There is no other authority in the world which can be substituted for the Bible.
CHURCH FATHERS EXALT SCRIPTURE
When the Canon of the New Testament was formulated, it was taken for granted that the apostolic doctrine had been expressed once for all in the books now canonized, and that the final reference was to the books. So it was laid down peremptorily by Origen, by Athanasius, by the Fathers generally without any hesitation. The great obstacle to the acceptance of the test word homoousios (consubstantial) at Nicaea was that the word was not in Scripture; and the obstacle was only overcome by the evidence that no other word would really exclude the Arian idea of a demi-god, and that the Church had the duty of guarding and protecting what was really the faith of Scripture, even, if necessary, by a new word. But during the years of controversy following Nicaea almost all the argument is conducted on the field of Scripture with little reference to the Council. In his Catechetical lectures St. Cyril of Jerusalem says to his catechumens: "Do not believe me simply, unless you receive the proof of what I say from Holy Scripture"; "keep that faith only which the Church is now giving to you, and which is certificated out of the Holy Scripture." We stand astonished at the particularity with which St. Chrysostom insists on his flock having their family Bibles, and studying them for themselves. Nor does he stand alone in this. Writer after writer insists that the purity of the faith can only be maintained by constant familiarity on the part of the members of the Church generally with the Scriptures." (Prestige, in Roman Catholic Claims, iv)
Athanasius definitely believed in the all-sufficiency of the Bible when he wrote: "The Holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth." (Contra Gentes, vol. I p. 1)
Long before Irenaeus, who is considered by Romanists an authority in behalf of Tradition, left no doubt about his belief in the completeness of the Bible. He said: "We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most perfectly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit." (Against Heresies, vol. I. p. 220) Elsewhere he affirms that the Scriptures are the foundation of our faith: "We have learned from no others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures to be the ground and the pillar of our faith... For after our Lord rose from the dead the apostles were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down, were filled from all his gifts, and had perfect knowledge." (Ibid., vol. III, p. 1)
These testimonies of the Fathers clearly show how they regarded the Scriptures in their time. Our Catholic friends may learn from them how to appreciate the Word of God in which they will find truth and spiritual freedom. We invite them to read and study the Bible which is complete and sufficient, the full revelation of God unto salvation, the source of all truths, the infallible guide in our daily life, the sole rule of faith and morals which may enable us to become members of the body of Christ, children of God and heirs of grace in the eternal kingdom of heaven.Back to Table of Contents