"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Monday, September 20, 2010

"But what does the Bible say about X?”

This is my comment to "Lawwife" and Zoltan on Called to Communion concerning new converts asking the "But what does the Bible say about X?” question. In short, we still ask the question, but with different intent, and a different result! Lawwife: My conversion process for my heart took only a day. Once I saw the naked “sola scriptura” emperor parading down the street I was through with the reformation. For the mind to do the due diligence study took a few more months. I do still find myself asking the “what does scripture say” question. All the time! And the nice thing about asking that question now is that MY QUESTION GETS AN ANSWER! Then I can actually learn from the scripture, and plumb the depths of it’s truth instead of so many doctrines staying on a surface level. In #895 Zoltan makes this statement:
Problems arise I believe when we become too precise with these matters (as transubstantiation does in my view) … [] With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I believe we will discern much in this through the centuries. However, it seems unreasonable to me that a previous generation’s limited view of the sacraments will hold sway over the rest of Church history as though they have already plunged the depths of such mystery and we need only blindly affirm what they believed.
This thinking is what I am glad to leave behind. (no offence brother Zoltan!) Notice how Zoltan refers to transubstantiation as being too precice a doctrine in his view. I thought that as well as a Protestant. But I couldnt repress the nagging thought “what if i’m wrong that it is too precice? Perhaps this issue of the the Lord’s Supper is one of the most important issues?” The importance level of an issue is its own issue and in Catholicism, those importance levels are well defined. Contrary to the Church having “already plunged the depths of such mystery and we need only blindly affirm what they believed” it is the opposite. Someone that knows better than me here can explain doctrinal developement, but one thing I know is that it is not about blindly affirming OR some how fully explaining mysteries. The Church self consciously has not plumbed the depths of Christ present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. From what I have experienced in the Church so far, it is a profound mystery to Catholics! And contrary to blindly affirming, there is an ability to furhter plumb the depths of this inexhaustible mystery of faith when you have a starting point like the Real Presense to begin with. Scripture can then “come alive” and really speak with authority. But for the Catholic, it does not speak with a forked tongue, through Tradition it speaks univocally and with a richness and depth unfound in Protestantism. Protestants claim *mystery* concerning the Eucharist to the point of accepting opposing views as orthodox that are incompatible with each other. This is not somehow admirable or protecting the mystery of God. I know for me it was a cop out. I believed Calvin’s view but I knew it was more of a personal conviction of what scripture taught. Therefore I instinctively knew that someone who was a Zwinglian was probably in my same boat. They did the best they could to interpret the scripture but ended up with a different view. So in order to maintain MY prefered view, I claim the doctrine must be a *mystery* since two spirit filled believers came up with different interpretations. But disagreement of this kind is not the result of mystery. In my personal experience, the claim of mystery is an attempt to make the discord and schism seem not as bad as it is. Ironically my cry of “mystery” was a sort of blaming God for not being clear enough in scripture, where I knew instinctively He was/should be clear on such an important doctrine. What I love about Catholicism is the increased respect for the scriptures. I no longer say “where is that in scripture?” as a sort of litmus test or doubt, I say it because I want to plumb the depths of mysteries that are now true mysteries of faith, not mysteries of disagreement. And the scriptures have not disapointed this catechumen in any of his meager attempts so far! Peace, David Meyer


  1. David,

    I love that last paragraph. I once tried to tell a protestant that the Bible was not intended to be a manual for the Christian to consult for every one of life's decisions. Rather the Bible is to liberate us from that sort of legalism and lead us into a deeper relationship with God and to transform us into a better disciple of Christ. The Scriptures are to be written on our hearts; not to remain stuck in our minds.

    He accused me of blasphemy and said that what I said was a lie from the deepest pits of Hell. I don't even think he heard the final points because he was so appalled that I said the Bible wasn't intended to be a life manual. So sad. I like the way you stated this, though. Probably less divisive than the way I put it.

    (Just to be clear, I do believe that the Bible can help a Christian form one's conscience and should be consulted for challenging dilemmas. But it is more than that, and I feel that some protestants don't ever wind up seeing it that way)

  2. Great comment.

    And even if we grant (which I am not) that the Bible IS intended as a life manual, it becomes quickly clear that within the sola scriptura framework, it cannot do its job.

    What does the Bible say about contraception or masturbation according to most evangelicals?


    So they say go ahead, you have Christian liberty.

    Catholics say, No!… it is not only in the Bible that it is a sin, but it is a MORTAL sin that leads to the death of the soul before God unless repented of!

    And what about alchohol? Evangelicals look down their nose and say it is a sin to partake, where the Bible says the EXACT OPPOSITE!

    My point here is that those who claim the “Bible alone” is their rulebook for life seem to be drawing the target around the arrow they just shot, and then claiming they are a Bible believer. In my experience they are using the Bible as a oija board for what they want to believe, rather than submit to Christ through His Church for what the Bible actually says.

    And don’t sweat it. My own sister verbally accused me of blasphemy in a similar situation, even though I fully subscribe to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This accusation comes from a woman who would compare the Lord’s Prayer to an Old Testament ritual and say Christians should not say it… clearly THAT is a “Biblical” doctrine, right? ;-)

  3. Pope Leo's XIII "Providentissimus Deus" slams the door on the notion Catholics don't hold the Bible in the highest regard.

    You might be interested in this article which shows even if the Bible teaches X on something, Protestants still cannot agree!

  4. David -

    You brought up a pet peeve of mine. There are evangelicals that are completely against homosexual acts (as they should be) but are fine with oral sex and anal sex between a man and a woman. They don't get that there really isn't a difference. Of course, we Catholics (because our forefathers have pondered the word for two thousand years) recognize the difference and are opposed to these activities.

  5. Zeeehjee,

    You will really be interested in this blog post from a popular online Reformed Protestant Professor.

    Look at the comments section with posts by "Nick" and see the Dr's replies.

    He couldn't respond because he saw the web Protestantism was entangled in. A few days later, he shut down all comments on his blog forever.

  6. It is a type of Phariseeism, which looks to the letter of the law instead of the Spirit writing the law on our hearts.

    How dispicable and degrading to think of a married couple doing that with their bodies. Yet how many evangelicals accept it because they think the Bible doesnt forbid it.

    This is the kind of perversion and evil that slip in the front door when the authority of the Church Christ founded is pushed out the back.

    This is the thinking that has led to abortion. Of course that will be firmly denied by evangelicals.

  7. David,

    My last post didn't show up, but it says it went through. This is a "problem" for many blogs since Google Blogs recently began it's comment filter for "spam comments" in blogs which ends up actually causing many genuine comments to not show up.

    You have to go into your blog settings for comments and manually allow them.

  8. That is too bad I cant just disable the filter altogether. Goofy.