Friday, July 18, 2008
It wasI still rembember walking to the Parish offices for the first time. It was a very strange feeling. When I walked through the door the first thing I came to was a 4ft crucifix on the left hand side of the hallway. The giftshop followed with the curved glass window filled with all types of Catholic items, statues of the Saints who had gone before, the Blessed Mother, Rosaries, books....I simply couldn't belive that I was actually going through with this. In some senses I felt as though I was having an affair, something that had to be hidden and kept from the light. After all, at this time, I was still a Reformed Presbyterian and I didn't NEARLY understand the conflict that would be coming on that front--and that was a good thing. Msgr. Reed and I began with a prayer, he crossed himself in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and I just sat there wondering what was going to come next and what he was really thinking...and why was I here, now. Remember at this time I really didn't understand yet about Sacraments, the Eucharist, or any other of the details of Catholic theology but I was hungry and wanted to know. The first thing we started off with was the Scripture. What was the Catholic view of the Bible? Why did I want to know this? Remember, from my background the Bible was the final authority of our faith. Was it just a "good book", A "guide book", or was it the Word of God? And what about all these extra books? Why does the Catholic Bible have 73 books instead of 66? Who added them?
What I found out is that the Catholic Church does believe that the Bible is the Word of God: Inspired, Infallible and authoritative. More than that though, I found out that the Catholic Faith is like a three legged stool. The Scripture cannot stand and was not designed to stand on its own as a sole foundation of our faith. Christ came to establish the Church, not a book! As is stated in 1Tim 3:15
But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Why didn't St Paul state that the Bible was the "pillar and foundation of truth"? Because it was not the way it was designed by our Lord. For the first 4oo years of the Church, there was no defined Bible and there were all sorts of gospels floating around that were being read. It was at that time that the Catholic Church assembled the Bible that we have today-all 73 books. (back to that later). Prior to that time, how did Christians live? How did they develop their theology and their beliefs? It was by the Sacred Tradition that was passed down orally. Listen to what Jesus told his disciples in John 14:24-26:
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25 "I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.
As Christians, have we really understood what Christ was saying here? Christ told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and remind them of everything that He had taught them. Then we read from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:
2 I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.
Tradition in this sense is not bad or evil, or legalistic. The Tradition we were speaking of is the action of the Holy Spirit guiding all the Apostles and their successors with the True Faith of His Church. This is what guided the Early Church, not the 73 books of the Bible. And this Truth still guides us today; Truth did not get lost, and He did not lose control over his Church. Christianity was not hijacked by the Catholic Religion and Luther and the Reformers didn't "rescue" the Church. To believe this is to doubt the power and Sovreignty of the Holy Spirit and insinuates than Our Lord had no idea what he was saying.
It was in this meeting that I also found out about the third leg on this stool, the Magisterium, or the Teaching Authority of the Church. This is how God speaks and guides us today. The Holy Spirit continues to guide his Body through the Holy Father to teach and to guide us. Therefore all three supports must be there to balance our Faith: Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Teaching authority of the Church: In this I saw balance. No man can give his own private revelation from God without the ability to back it up and test it. Scripture is not open to private interpretation, 2 Peter 1:20-21
Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, 21 for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.
Finally I found out why Catholic Bibles have those extra books! When the Scriptures were cannonized in 382, there were 73 books in the Bible. (Including 1 & 2 Macabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch and certain portions of Esther and Daniel). If you look at the very first Edition of the KJV, 1594 all these books are still included. The reason that they are not in the Protestant Bible is for the simple fact that the Reformers REMOVED them, they were not ADDED by the Catholic Church. Why did they remove them? Who gave them the authority to do so? The answer to the 2nd question is that I don't know. The reason to the first question is as follows: They were written in Greek. When the Jews met at the Council of Jamnia, they accepted their cannon of scripture and they would not accept anything that was written in Greek. Another reason they rejected the books was simply becuase some of the new Jewish Christians were using these books to convert the Jews to the Christian faith. Since the Jews didn't accept the books, the Reformers decided that there must be something to that and followed their lead and pull them out as well. In addition, these books also have references to very Catholic doctrines that they were separating themselves from. (very short explanation) Therefore, from that point forward, the Protestant Bible remains with only 66 books.
And this was just the first meeting.........
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I knew where it was and I couldn't wait for the next morning. Early Saturday morning I went to the Parish and pulled on the huge wooden doors with the twisted brass handles. I was nervous and scared...filled with expectation of what was awaiting me inside. I knew that I was going to have a new encounter with our Lord, one that I had not had before. Only one problem. The doors were locked. I could not believe it! I had come all this way and now the doors were locked. This really was supposed to happen differently. On my way back to the car, a very nice lady stopped me and directed me to the side chapel where Mass was being held this morning. SIDE CHAPEL!!!! I walked through another heavy wooden door with another twisted brass handle and I all of the sudden became very scared. I was going to have no place to hide. All of the sudden I was the only Protestant in a room of about 15 Catholics. If you have never been to a Mass before and you are attending for the first time, believe me, you will stick out like a sore thumb, and I did! But I was touched that morning in a way I never had been before. I was not distracted by lights, music, shouting or waving. What I heard was the Scriptures, very straight forward and I heard the Gospel proclaimed not in a way that was one persons interpretation, but a simple Gospel, a Gospel that literally changed my life. Then came the Eucharist. Now at this time, I had little idea of what I was witnessing, but what I saw I new was real. What I saw was the priest elevate the Host and I knew something very special was happening. I knew Jesus was there, but in a way that I had never felt him before....stronger than I had felt him before. Now I understood what people meant by the "Real Presence". Our Lord was there in that Eucharist and I knew it. On the way out, I met a man who probably played the biggest parts in my conversion, Msgr. Michael Reed. He very graciously greeted me and asked me a few questions. After I explained my plight to him and asked him if we could chat sometime, he agreed. Too bad he had no idea what he was getting himself into.........
Monday, July 14, 2008
Lastly on this point, I stated earlier that there was not any Scriptural basis to back up the 66 books of Scripture being the Sole and Final deposit of faith. Now the next question is, if the Scriptures aren't the final authority of our faith, who or what is? The answer to that question is something that blew me out of the water and that answer was found in 1Timothy 3:15:
15 But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.
If the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not Scriptural, what does history teach us about the authority of Scripture? When we talk about Church history, most of us think about Luther, the Reformation and move forward from there, not remembering and realizing that there WAS a Christian Church before then. What was the Church like 100 years after the Ascension of our Lord? What did they believe? What did they base their faith on? How did they live? The first thing that we have to remember is that the earliest Christians were actually Jews who had accepted Christ as their Messiah and due to this they had been kicked out of the synogogues and had nowhere left to go. They then went to the Christian churches that were meeting at that time on Sundays and were reading these letters that had been circulating from the Apostles of the Church. They had no "Bible", No Old Testament, no New Testament, just the Tanak (Jewish Scriptures) and what was being taught by the Apostles. The Bible that we use wasn't even assembled until the middle of the fourth Century and when it was assembled, who determined what was considered Scripture an what wasn't??? That is right, the Catholic Church. And they stated that all books to be considered Scripture had to meet 4 guidelines: 1)The book had to be written by an Apostle or a disciple of an Apostle 2) it had to be written close to the time of Christ 3) It could not contradict current teaching of the Church and 4) it had to be widely read among the Churches. That, ladies and gentlemen is how we got the New Testament. And by the way, at the time the Canon of Scripture was closed in the 4th Century, it had 73 books and remained that way until the Reformation and Luther. It was at that time that he and some of the other reformers removed the 7 books often referred to as the Apocrypha. My question on this is, who gave him the authority to remove books that had been inserted? I digress......the point is that the Early Church and the Church up to the time of the Reformation had never heard of a doctrine of Sola Scriptura, this is a teaching that has only been taught and accepted since the Reformation. Finally if Sola Scriptura is an "essential" doctrine of our faith, I am guessing that those Christians that lived prior to 397 A.D. either missed out, or were under a different standard...along with all those Christians through the ages and even now in other parts of the world that aren't able to have Scripture...How do they build their faith?
Sola Scriptura---Historical....I don't think so.