Authority of the Catholic Church?


#1

Ok, I have a question when it comes to defending the Catholic Church, and I mean the Catholic Church itself.

We know that the Church is infallible and guided by the Holy Spirit, and we know that the bible is inspired because the Church determined which books were in the 4th century under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We also know that the Church is infallible because of what the bible says about the Church. I do not know how to effectively answer non-catholic charges when they acknowledge this circular argument.

This is how protestant apologist James White put it:

“[size=2]if Rome determines the extent of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ and the * meaning* of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ how can she logically be subservient to two things that she in fact defines and interprets?””

Thanks for the help!
Michael
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#2

For me …the most convincing argument came from Jesus when He said to Peter…

“Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

If Jesus did not give Peter a special gift that protected him from “binding and loosing” in error - then He would have set up a situation where human error could be “introduced” into heaven.
Can’t happen.


#3

You need to construct a spiral argument rather than a circular one.

Throw in a third ingredient in addition to Scripture and Tradition: the history of the early Church and the continuity and consistency of that history. Men like Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp (and thousands of others) wrote the Gospel in their own blood on the sands of the colisseum. The heroic witness of the early Church – independent of Scripture – and the writings of the early Fathers corroborate both the Scriptural warrant and the testimony of Tradition. Since nobody (except those “Trail of Blood” people) can honestly deny that the Church of that period stands in direct historical and spiritual continuity with what we know as the Catholic Church today, then it is the Catholic Church to which the Scriptural promises apply.

A cord of three strands is very hard to break.


#4

But is the Church in fact subservient to Scripture and Tradition, or is it subservient to God? Is the Church built on the foundation of the Apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone and Peter filling the role of Steward of the Kingdom, or is it built on a collection of manuscripts?


#5

[quote=neophyte]But is the Church in fact subservient to Scripture and Tradition, or is it subservient to God? Is the Church built on the foundation of the Apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone and Peter filling the role of Steward of the Kingdom, or is it built on a collection of manuscripts?
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Adding the third strand: history, renders the position non-circular. White’s argument is basically polemic in nature, designed to flim-flam the naive. That “collection of manuscripts” is an independent witness to the claims of both Scripture and Tradition.


#6

[quote=mercygate]That “collection of manuscripts” is an independent witness to the claims of both Scripture and Tradition.
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Good point there.


#7

Theologically people are all over the map on the authority, infallibility, etc. of the Catholic Church.

In reality, the authority of the Catholic Church on this earth is determined 100% by the faith of her people. If nobody believed in the Church, she would have no authority on this world and eventually her traditions would die out or become just a religious veneer with a bunch of phony lip service.

Alan


#8

“We also know that the Church is infallible because of what the bible says about the Church. I do not know how to effectively answer non-catholic charges when they acknowledge this circular argument.”

Easy. The Church says we can know that these truths are historically accurate by means of historical tradition, not by Divine Tradition.

In other words, we can know by historical tradition that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church upon Peter and the apostles. The writings of the Romans and the Jews who opposed the Church and who hated the Church are testamony to this fact that they all knew. In other words, it is a historical fact, that we can know from the writings of Jews and Pagans that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church and this Church alone had authority from Him.

We can also know that the bible, especially the New Testament, is historically true by means of historical tradition. This is because not only all Christians, but all Jews and Romans accepted the New Testament writings as historically true. We must remember that the Jews and Romans hated the Christians and would have loved to discredit the Gospels, and thus discredit Christianity. But they could not do so, because they knew the facts presented in the Gospels were true. They knew that Pilot had Jesus crucified, they knew that Peter and the apostles were appointed by Jesus. All this Jesus did publically and thus was open to all, both Jews, Romans and the followers of Jesus. That is why when the movie of the Passion by Gibson came out, none of the Jews denied the facts in the movie, even though none of them accept the Gospels as being inspired. Instead, they accepted the facts as true, and hated the movie because they said it would stir up old hatreds.

Thus, based on historical tradition,
First a tradition which accepts the Gospels as being historically accurate and
Second a tradition accepted by Jews and Romans that Jesus founded the Catholic Church, we can know that Jesus gave authority to this Church alone, and this Church then teaches on that authority that not only is the bible historically accurate, as even Jews and Romans acknowledged, but it is also inspired, thus it is also innerrant regarding faith and morals.

In other words, it is a historical fact that Jesus founded the Church on Peter and the apostles and gave them alone authority to teach and preach.

Then based on this authority the Church teaches
that she is infallible, and of course history also is evident of this fact, and she teaches the bible is also inspired, thus inerrant in everything else also.


#9

This has got to be the most hypocritical & idiotic thing I’ve ever heard from a Protestant. :rotfl:


#10

Ok…all Mr. White is saying is that the Catholic argument for ultimate authority is circular. He is not denying that his ultimate authority argument isn’t circular. I would know this since I’ve discussed it with him personally…And how does adding the fathers render this argument uncircular? Please explain this.


#11

[quote=Tiger Lily]Ok…all Mr. White is saying is that the Catholic argument for ultimate authority is circular. He is not denying that his ultimate authority argument isn’t circular. I would know this since I’ve discussed it with him personally…And how does adding the fathers render this argument uncircular? Please explain this.
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Did you read the other posts in this thread, especially the one by dcdurel? Even Catholics (should) reject a circular argument if the Catholic position were as White suggests it is – which, of course, it is not.


#12

Yes I did. And just stating that the fathers added to the catholic authority argument makes the argument not circular doesn’t prove anything. I’m looking for a technical explanation of how this recourse to the fathers removes the problem of circularity. The church is infallible right? Well how do you know that?


#13

[quote=Tiger Lily] The church is infallible right? Well how do you know that?
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This is long and will take 2 posts. It builds on an argument originally mounted by Arnold Lunn.

Looking only at the Bible not as an inspired document, but as we would any other ancient text, we have more ancient manuscripts of the New Testament than of any other ancient document of the time. Some are whole books, some are mere fragments. There are thousands of them in several languages: Greek, Aramaic, Coptic, Syriac, Latin, and many more. These texts are exceptionally consistent in content, and the manuscripts are closer in age to the time of their reputed authors= deaths than any other manuscripts of the ancient world. For example, a manuscript fragment of the* Gospel of John *has recently been found which has been dated at *not later than *90 A.D. The classical author whose oldest known manuscript is closest in time to his death is Virgil. That manuscript dates from 350 years following Virgil=s death. With some of the ancient Greeks, the time between the death of the author and the date of the oldest known manuscript is as much as 1300 years! But nobody challenges the historical existence of Plato or Euripides or Horace or Cicero.

So the New Testament manuscripts, not considering them in any way as sacred or divinely inspired, and based purely on the material evidence, are are remarkably authoritative.

Then, when we look at the immediate history of New Testament times and of the next 50-150 years (much of that time within living memory of the Apostles), we find an astonishing number of early Christians facing hideous deaths and otherwise appalling suffering, because they refused to deny the fundamental event reported in the Gospels: that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and undeniably appeared in the flesh. The idea that these people went cheerfully to the lions, to crucifixion, to beheading, or to burning at the stake in the name of a myth or a fraud simply does not hold water. The only thing that can account for this early history is an unshakeable conviction that Christ=s Resurrection was *real. *Their willingness to die for this belief verifies the reported event.

If the Resurrection is true, then how can it be explained? Only by what Jesus said and what others said about him: that he was, and is, God and the Son of God. So we accept the report of Scripture by reasoning to its truth, and not by a blind acceptance of Scripture itself, which we have not yet concluded to be divinely inspired.

If Jesus is God, then we can be certain that he meant what he said, and that he did what he said he would do. One of the things he said he would do is establish a Church (Mt 16:18). One of the promises he made concerning the Church was that Athe gates of hell would not prevail against it.@ (Mt 16:18) Another was that he would send the Spirit to Aguide you in all truth.@ (Jn 16:13) He says he will build his Church on Peter and entrusts the keys of the Kingdom to him, commits to him the power of binding in heaven and earth (Mt 16:19), and the task of “strengthening his brethren” (Lk 22:32). On Easter Sunday, Jesus breathes his spirit into the Apostles committing to them the power to forgive and to retain sins (Jn 20:22-23).

Where do we find these New Testament beliefs today? Only the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, which trace their history and their Priesthood in an unbroken line back to that age, to those manuscripts, to the Apostles, and to Our Lord, have consistently held these scriptural warrants in their definition and structure of what the AChurch@ is. Only the *Catholic *Church traces its apostolic authority directly in an unbroken line back to Peter, the Acenterpiece@ of the Apostles, whom the Lord himself appointed as shepherd of the Church (Jn 21:15-17) .

As the risen Lord had a physical body, so has his Church, the living witness to his prayer that Athey all might be one@ (Jn 17:11, 22).


#14

(continued)

So much for the history. But why do we accept the New Testament B or for that matter, the entire Bible B as the inspired Word of God? Nowhere does Bible itself claim to be divinely inspired (except perhaps the beginning of Revelation, which speaks only of John=s experience). We accept Scripture as inspired based on the relationship between Christ, the Apostles, and those texts. We trust the texts because the early Church attests to them; we can accept that they are inspired because they are inextricably linked B historically, physically, and spiritually B to the Church, which has the God-given authority to determine and to declare whether they are inspired or not based on the promises and gifts conveyed to the Church by Christ himself.

This is not circular reasoning. We do not accept the Bible because the Church tells us it is inspired, nor do we accept the authority of the Church because the Bible asserts that claim. The reasoning is more like a spiral which arises first from the integrity of the documents, from the Scriptural assertions concerning the Church, from the corroborative history, and then from mutual affirmation of each to each. As I stated above: it is a cord of three strands.

Any other reason for accepting the authority of Scripture simply lacks Alegs.@ Any reason for accepting the authority of Scripture, which does not also comprehend the history of the early Church, is ultimately fatal: no Church, no Scripture.

“Infallibility” is tied to “indefectibility” – the promise that the Church will be “guided into all truth” and that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” It is a “note” which derives from those promises. To believe in a fallible Church is to believe that Christ did not mean what he said and did not deliver on his promises.


#15

mercygate, that’s a great synopsis of what I was hinting at. Thanks.

Jesus gave the authority to teach in His name to the Aposostles (Matthew 10:20; Luke 10:1; Luke 10:16), with Peter having the preeminent position among them (Matthew 16:17-19), and promised that the Holy Spirit would protect them from ever teaching error (John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26; 16:13; 17:17-19; Luke 21:33). Jesus further promised that the fruit that the Apostles bore (i.e., the Bishops they appointed and the Church that He built on them) would remain faithful (John 15:16). The Apostles in turn taught (again, without error) that they had the authority to pass that office on to their successors. Based on the word of Christ, we can know that the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in union with the sucessor to St. Peter, are protected by God from ever teaching false doctrine as being infallibly true and binding on all believers.

The structure is:

  1. The historical evidence shows that Jesus said the Apostles had the authority to teach in his name, and that they would teach binding and infallible doctrine.
  2. The historical evidence shows that the Apostles taught that this authority was to be passed on to their successors.
  3. The historical evidence shows that their successors taught, as binding doctrine, that the Church is infallible.

This is not a circular argument.


#16

The problem with White is that he worships the Bible. He seriously believes that the reality occurred only when it was written in Scripture. Working from that erroneous perspective, he presumes: the Bible validates the existence of the Church; the Church validates the existence of the Bible. The fact is, the Church is an entity based in history and does not need the Bible to validate it. The Bible supports the Church’s existence, but it is not the reason for its being. Since his first premise is false, his circular argument becomes nonsensical.

The irrationality of his argument also rests in his premise that the act of interpreting or defining something means that you are the master of it. Try that on an engineer or who is schooled in the sciences, and he would get laughed out of the room. Scientists are constantly interpreting and defining nature through observation. But show me a scientist who believes that he is the origin or master of nature, and I will show you a pig that can fly.

James White, though I’m sure he would deny it, is actually infected with the post-modernist mentality: “I think therefore I am.” What a bunch of malarchy! But seeing as how he is Protestant, someone whose purported objective beliefs are actually defined by his/her SUBJECTIVE rationalizations, one can understand, if not pity, his position.

God bless


#17

Looking at this from another angle. The argument is a fallacy.

White is arguing as if “Rome” defined and interpreted Scripture and Tradition afresh each day!

But of course the Church does nothing of the kind. The Church is bound by** the precedent teaching handed down from the Apostles**. (ie Tradition). The Church is bound by scripture, tradition and the formal definitions and interpretations of these by the magisterium down the ages.

In other words the teaching in its essentials stays the same. The Church cannot suddenly say The new Testament now has 12 books. Nor can it suddenly define that the Eucharist is now only a symbolic re-enactment! The Church teaches what has always been taught. It may define and illuminate existing received doctrine. But it may not change it.


#18

There is no scientific experiment or logical tautology that is going to prove the infallibility of the Church.

Most of us have heard at least some of the arguments.

It is an article of faith. You either believe it or you don’t. With enough scholarly mental masturbation you can support or refute any argument involving things that happened thousands of years ago. Even today, right before our eyes and with today’s technology not even the president’s wife always knows with whom he sleeps. And we’re going to take a bunch of pieces of ancient text and somehow prove it?

Explaining church teachings on authority is fine. Trying to defend her on a logical basis is futile and itself shows a lack of faith.

If we only believed things that make logical sense to us, then let’s just forget about the resurrection.

To paraphrase an old Wendy’s commercial: Where’s the faith?

Alan


#19

[quote=AlanFromWichita]There is no scientific experiment or logical tautology that is going to prove the infallibility of the Church.

Most of us have heard at least some of the arguments.

It is an article of faith. You either believe it or you don’t. With enough scholarly mental masturbation you can support or refute any argument involving things that happened thousands of years ago. Even today, right before our eyes and with today’s technology not even the president’s wife always knows with whom he sleeps. And we’re going to take a bunch of pieces of ancient text and somehow prove it?

Explaining church teachings on authority is fine. Trying to defend her on a logical basis is futile and itself shows a lack of faith.

If we only believed things that make logical sense to us, then let’s just forget about the resurrection.

To paraphrase an old Wendy’s commercial: Where’s the faith?

Alan
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Alan, I believe you underplay the role of reason and the credibility of the evidence with this statement. There is nothing “faithless” about narrowing the gap between “fact” and “belief” by weighing and assessing the tangible evidence we possess.


#20

[quote=mercygate]Alan, I believe you underplay the role of reason and the credibility of the evidence with this statement. There is nothing “faithless” about narrowing the gap between “fact” and “belief” by weighing and assessing the tangible evidence we possess.
[/quote]

Dear mercygate,

If I understand your comment correctly, I agree with it in that discussing details and such is helpful, if not necessary, to understanding ones own faith if not to bring someone else to the faith.

What I’m talking about is more what I perceive to be a spirit of frustration when people don’t understand or follow our “logic” when the subject at hand is inherently an article of faith rather than an article of logic.

As theologian Paul Tillich was quoted as saying, “doubt is not the opposite of faith; doubt is an element of faith.” If we knew things by mathematical reasoning and induction, then we would not need faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)

One cannot “prove” the authority of the Catholic Church. She asserts her authority, and each of us can believe it or not. It is a matter of faith, which always involves some form of unknowing or it is not faith. If one can see something, whether with ones eyes, scientific experiment, or mathematical/logical reasoning, then it becomes worldly knowledge and no longer requires faith. It is still good to believe something that has been proven to you beyond imagination to the contrary, as with Thomas; it just isn’t a matter of faith.

After all, if we could prove the authority of the Catholic church using logic and reasoning, then we could certainly prove the existence of God. One can point to an incredible preponderance of evidence, but no actual proof. Trying to convince another of something one believes is true is laudible, but once we become frustrated or impatient because people aren’t buying what we think are “water tight” explanations (to which we foolishly attach ourselves and our credibility) then we have actually weakened our own faith rather than “proven” it to another.

Alan


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