A blog commenter on Where the Rubber Hits the Road, who used to be a Catholic, believes that he has been saved by Jesus Christ. As a former Catholic, he has now been inculcated with the fundamentalist Christian belief system, basically as we in the Catholic Church have been inculcated in ours. OK, so far. But, in bible bashing mode, he has asked what I believe about salvation, and I intend to write about it for a few days. My friend Small Town Guy has quoted scripture verse on verse to support his beliefs. OK again. But, bashing me with scripture is not going to be very effective as a method of sharing Christ with me.
In the 30 years that I have personally known Jesus Christ, I have been a member of the Catholic Church. I have been able to grow in love of Him and faith in Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit, as they have moved in my life. It is something I take very seriously, and it forms my core belief system. I have been a musician in the Catholic Church many of these years, and even had a fun stint playing guitar with a group from a local Pentecostal Church for praise worship and healing services.
Many times over the years, well meaning friends have tried to "save" me from the Catholic Church, the church they called the Whore of Babylon. At these time, in their presence I have shared my faith with them, not to convert them, nor even to shut them up, but out of love and respect for their concern for my eternal salvation.
I have the utmost admiration for those who follow Christ's teachings. I also respect those who fall short daily, as I do, and have the courage to admit their own sinfulness and take responsibility for it. I do get irritated at those who quote the bible to support whatever point they want to make, to the exclusion of any other beliefs that might be out there, even those that are supportable by the bible. We did not get to 30,000 non-Catholic Christian denominations by accident, folks.
So, I intend to write a post Easter series on what we as Catholics believe. I will be referencing a book by John Salza with the title "The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Church", and other resources I have available as I progress through this series.
I will start with the bible, and what we believe about the bible, because it is pretty hard to discuss other matters of faith without understanding where we stand on the most basic source of our wisdom.
Though a certain percentage of Catholics attend mass regularly, and therefor have some access to sacred scripture, we fall far behind our non-Catholic Christian brethren in our reading of and specific knowledge of the bible. Shame on us. But, all is not lost. Dust that great book off, and start reading it. If you are not such a good reader, then go to mass every week, attend daily mass when you can. If it is possible for you learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is all about the bible, do that. As Catholic Christians, the bible is in front of us throughout the liturgies of the Church. It is very present in the Rosary, as well. But, that is another story for a later date.
But, the bible would not exist without the Catholic Church. Shocked to read that. You shouldn't be. Back in the beginning, the books that were to make up the bible were not found on the internet. They were all copied by hand, and took years of work to reproduce. Fortunately, I was not one of the copiers.
Prior to 140 AD, the books were being written. About 140 AD, a first attempt to codify the New Testament was done by a Roman businessman named Marcion. He happened to be anti-semitic, and so he eliminated the Old Testament. The main stream Church at the time had to then codify the New Testament in a God inspired assembly, which included the four Gospels and the Letter of Paul. The New Testament was proposed by Athanasius who was then the Bishop of Alexandria. It took two councils of the Catholic Church, and lots of arguing it out, to come to the conclusion basically that Athanasius was inspired. Many of the existing churches came on board, but it took in fact, until 1442, when at the Council of Florence, all of the Churches represented accepted what is now the Catholic Canon of the Bible.
Then, in 1536, Martin Luther did his own translation of the bible, and chose to omit certain books. But, in 1546 at the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirmed the full canon, including the Deuterocanonical books, which you will not find in non-Catholic bibles editions. What is even more important at the time, is that the Council declared as dogma, the books of the bible.
So, there's 1500 years of Church biblical history boiled down to a couple of paragraphs.
Next, let us examine whether the Catholic Church believes about the inerrant nature of the bible. The Church believes that the bible is the Word of God, word for word, no ifs ands or buts. So, even though the people who wrote it were fallible humans, they are believed to not have erred on matters of faith, morals, or anything else either.
Many times, particularly with and since Vatican Council I that began in 1868, the inerrancy of the bible has been confirmed, most recently in the Council Document Dei Verbum (Word of God) where it was stated:
In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things that he wanted. Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error that truth that God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation (Dei Verbum 11).So, lest anyone be confused. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the bible is the word of God. (period)
In the next article, I will examine a concept that is popular with our non Catholic brethren, that of sola scriptura. Is the bible the only authority?