Saturday, 14 August 2010

Foundation or Support?

My Roman Catholic proselytiser friend, whom I told you about yesterday, was quick to respond to my letter with a series of statements not from the Bible but from the Catechism. I won’t weary you with them all but if you think the the differences between the Church of Rome and biblical Christianity are marginal, the following will be helpful to you. Emphases are mine:

80 “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.

“Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age”.

81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”

“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”

85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

To which I replied:

I’m grateful to you for copying and pasting what the Roman Catholic Church says about itself but you can’t really expect someone who believes in the principle of “Scripture alone” to be persuaded by the claims of an organisation that sees itself as being above Scripture.

The NIV translation of 1 Timothy 3:15 is, for the reasons I outlined, inaccurate. The Church is the support of truth, not the foundation.

This elicited the following response:

The church answers the very canard that you make of the Church being above Scripture. Read the extract.

86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me", the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

Foundation is a legitimate translation and can be found in several Protestant versions.

Hedraioma: “a stay, prop, support”. Is not a foundation a support? This is semantics and prejudiced choice of words I fear.

I replied:

Although article 86 states the “Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant”, in practice it does not act as though it is the servant of the Word of God.

In the booklet you gave me, Joel Peters states categorically: “The Catholic Church readily acknowledges the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. But the Catholic doctrine is that the immediate rule of faith for the Christian is the teaching authority of the Church.” (Scripture Alone? p.19, my emphasis)

If that statement does not put the Church above Scripture, I don’t know what does!
In this respect, Roman Catholicism is remarkably like Judaism: Jacob Neusner: in Jews & Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition says that Christianity is “the religion of the Bible”. Judaism is “the religion of the Talmud”. Likewise, Christianity is “the religion of the Bible”; Roman Catholicism is evidently “the religion of the Magisterium”.

The very fact that Peters (and you) see the Church as the “foundation” (ibid p.16) of the truth indicates that in his (and your) view, truth is built on the church, not vice-versa!

The foundation is the most important part of a building.

You accuse me of “semantics and prejudiced choice of words” when you ask the rhetorical question: “Is not a foundation a support?” Yes it is but the distinction between hedraioma and themelios is not mere semantics. As for “prejudiced choice of words”, that criticism is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways.

Of course a “foundation” is a “support” but it is a particular type of support, one on which the entire edifice rests. That is why Christ is the only “foundation” (themelios not hedraioma) on which we build (1 Cor 3:11).

You can see what a difference if would make if 1 Cor 3:11-14 read like this: “No other support (hedraioma) can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this support (hedraioma) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

Hedraioma is never used in the New Testament for a foundation. The Greek word for foundation is themelios.

When we first met many years ago I told you there was one overwhelming reason why I could never accept Roman Catholicism. When you were an evangelical, you would have spent all your energies trying to lead people to Jesus; now those energies are spent trying to lead people who follow Jesus to “the Church”. If you were truly a Christian all those years ago, I have no doubt that Jesus would have been everything to you; now “the Church” is everything. Put up all the reasons for that polar shift as you might, the fact remains that for you “the Church” is now more important to you than Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. Well written Mike, gentle, persuasive and devastating.

    ReplyDelete