Friday, 3 August 2012

Roman Catholicism and authority

There has been a great deal of discussion at CTC about the rational superiority of the Catholic interpretive paradigm over the Protestant interpretive paradigm. As Michael Liccione, and others, have pointed out, Protestantism has no principled way to differentiate dogma from theological opinion – no coherent way even to identify the contours of Christian doctrine – that does not reduce to question begging or subjectivism. Catholicism, by contrast, posits an objective way to draw such distinctions.

Protestants, such as myself, claim that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice - which sits over and judges all the fallible opinions of men.

With the the above paragraph, the Roman Catholics give their typical claim - that the Protestant standard is no standard at all. For, how can we know what the Bible says? One group says this; another group says that. How do you know whose is the true interpretation? Result: confusion.

And their solution, is the Pope and the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which they claim has been gifted by God to give an infallible interpretation of the Bible to us, so that we can have the longed-for certainty.

What a totally pathetic argument.

Even Roman Catholic theology teaches that the Bible is the word of God. So, are we really supposed to believe that:
  • The word of God (as its status is agreed by both sides) given in the Bible is unclear, and we cannot know how to interpret it rightly.
  • The word of God, according to Roman Catholics, given through the mouth of the Roman hierarchy, is clear, and needs no interpretation.

It's rather ironic for the Roman writer above to complain of Protestant "question begging". How is it that the Bible needs interpreters, yet the Roman pronouncements apparently need none? How is it that God, apparently, can explain himself so clearly and straightforwardly when he speaks (allegedly) through the Papacy, but did not manage to do so when he spoke through the Bible? When we read the Bible and try to understand it, it is doomed to inevitably be an unanchored, subjective pursuit - whilst when we try to make out what the Pope was talking about, its a task of a different order?

Jesus once said, "But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God", Matthew 22:29. The teaching that nobody could know what the Scriptures were saying until a few centuries later when the Roman hierarchy arose was apparently unknown to him.


Ned Kelly said...

Interesting debate, but while you and I have our differences, I agree with you on the issue of authority. The Church of Rome has usurped God's authority vested in His Word. As for Jesus building a new church, I am not so sure. Both the Greek and Hebrew sources of "build" in Matthew 16:18 allow rebuild, repair, or restore. Consistent with the Messiah's mission to the Jew first, I am inclined to go with these interpretations rather than the connotation of "new" as in "build". The implications of this understanding are more than just significant, and they completely undermine the concept of a hierarchical priesthood. If Jesus was the last high priest of the order of Melchizedek, why would we need a Pope?

Incidently David, one reason that you may not get many replies could be the frustration experienced by trying to prove that one is not a robot. It often takes me 2, 3, or more attempts to decipher the scrambled script.

David Anderson said...

Sorry about the captchas - those come from Google/Blogger...

I don't see the church as being "new" if that carries the idea "brand new". It is a re-made Israel. But those words need careful unpacking.