Is the Catholic Church as an authority a circular argument? (Edited Title)


#1

Ok. So I see the likelihood that there needs to be an earthly authority. Question is: How does one determine who has that authority?

There are many churches claiming to be The One True Church/Earthly Authority. Why should I believe the CC is that authority?

I think the problem, at least for me and perhaps others, is the tendancy to believe that the best way to determine where the authority is, is to compare it to the early church; the apostolic church; the church of the Bible… Or, is that really a problem?:

This is circular reasoning. If there needs to be an extra-biblical, eartly authority, we still need to determine where that authority is, and the bible is the only infallible source to turn to. The rest is heresay and more self-interpretation.

No matter what angle I try to come to the Catholic Church from, I run into a wall - or should I say - I come back to the same place b/c I’m running around in circles.

It can’t be proven. But then again, neither can God’s existence be proven. You can show me what you think is more probable, and I can show you conflicting things that I think are more probable, but neither of us can prove anything at all and we all have to rely on our own, flawed judgement.

So, perhaps it looks more probable that the CC is the OTC, but the problem there is that when you introduce crafty Satan into the picture it throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. Perhaps the CC looks like the most probable answer (I say “looks like” in that many of the reasoning, apologetically, historically, etc. is somewhat convincing), but I always ask myself (and what is keeping me from accepting the Catholic defense) if the Catholic defense of “supposed” scripture contradictions are not simply crafty ways of excusing herself. There are many, what appear to me to be, blatant contradictions in some very plain verses. Inevitably someone will say “what is so plain about that verse? You are looking at it too simplistically. You need to look at history, culture, etc to understand how to interpret that”. But is that all scripture is? A mere picture of how things were in particular circumstances at a particular time in history?

It seems to me that the Bible is simply viewed as old letters and early church writings with no more value than present church writings. If that is the case (as it seems to be – to Catholics anyway) then there is no way to really determine if the Catholic claims of authority, current teachings, etc. are valid or not b/c you can’t prove they didn’t fall into error somewhere along the lines w/out a point of comparison/rule of measure that the average Joe can turn to.

That, I believe, is where non-Cs determine that the Bible must be that authority. We know it comes from God. We’re not all so sure the CC as we see it today is.

Anyone else dizzy? :stuck_out_tongue:

God must be taking into account our flawed evalutations. If we can’t infallibly interpret scripture, then we can’t infallibly interpret the earthly authority either.


#2

And perhaps the OTC wasn’t always a large institution; the most visible. There were times throught the OT where there were only a few righteous people on the whole earth. Perhaps the post-apostolic church, in majority, fell into error and there were few, very few, following the original teachings. Visibility, popularity, etc. is not a reliable source to look to. The majority aren’t always right.

To know what church is most apostolic should be determinable by comparing it to the church of the Bible. No, it can’t be identical after 2000 years, but should it be *that *different? Does revelation need to “evolve”?


#3

So how does one determine the bible is “from God” any more than the Koran or the Book of Mormon? In particular, how does one determine this if one assumes the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church, for that matter) is false?

Why does the bible receive a free pass, but not the Church?


#4

K, don’t mean to hit and run, but this is late for me. I’ll check back tomorrow.

Bless You


#5

There is a great amount of wisdom in this.

To hold the position that fallen men are better able to teach God’s doctrines than God Himself is, is a serious mistake.


#6

Where have you seen anything in faithful Catholic teaching that says that we cannot?

The reason that you have this problem is probably because you are still thinking with a Sola Scriptura mindset. SS is dead wrong according to the Word of God and is an errant teaching of men. I have seen many n-Cs assert that because the Catholic Church has no definitive document that “infallibly interprets every scripture” that it is somehow deficient, yet I am constantly distressed with those n-C preachers and teachers who purport that they can offer a definitive interpretation of even some of the Word of God. (I’m referring here to those who teach things like the Rapture, or hold dispensationalist beliefs, though this could apply to many other beliefs as well.) Most often, instead of giving good interpretations they wander off into things that have very little actual basis in the passages they are teaching from.

In my mind, the whole issue of authority is laid to rest when Our Lord tells us to take an errant brother before the church if he remains unrepentant, as does St. Paul and especially when he tells Timothy that the pillar and ground of the truth is the church. When Our Lord established His church in the Gospels the authority & promise of infallibility (that the gates of hell will not prevail against it) were given to the apostles and passed down from them. That succession and faithfulness is a matter of historically verifiable fact as the writings of the ECF show. The early church that transmitted these sacred truths, (including the canon of scripture) bears no close doctrinal resemblance to the modern post reformation step children, or their errant reformer “heroes”.

They broke that historical connection some 500 years ago and one need only read the earliest ECFs to see that that is so.

It’s not just the Church’s teaching on infallibility that convinces me but the myriad fruits of the fundamental error of n-C teachings that bear witness against them.:shrug:


#7

So I guess this means you are appointing yourself as arbiter of what are “God’s doctrines?”

You and Joy must have some secret knowledge that Scripture is the “how-to-build-a-church-and-teach-God’s-doctrine-correctly” book.

Gee, I must have missed that memo.

Robert

Oh, and Atemi, I’d love to hear your theory about constitutional government and the question of judicial restraint.:rolleyes:


#8

That’s why we have God’s Word in His Scriptures.

He told us.


SPLIT: Through whom did the Spirit work in order to give us the biblical canon?
#9

Joy> I’m glad to see someone else is as confused with the circular logic as I am. You’ve echoed quite a bit of what I’ve been thinking and saying lately.

Why does one need assume the Orthodox Church is false just because they assume the Roman Catholic Church to be false?

As for the validity of scripture, that seems a separate argument. I think all of us non-Roman-Catholics would all agree that we believe in the Bible due to faith that God preserved his teachings in that way.

Why does the bible receive a free pass, but not the Church?

Because there’s no external source which is able to validate the RCC’s apparent contradictions.

With scripture, I ultimately believe in it because the holy spirit has confirmed to me that it is valid. However, the holy spirit has not done the same for the RCC, for me. Thus, I have no means by which to evaluate the validity of the RCC, except for it’s own self-teachings, which to me, could be the work of Satan without us being able to discern that.

If the RCC is false, what it teaches doesn’t matter. You can’t justify the RCC with its own teachings. You need an external source. Scripture could somewhat be considered external, as it is at the least external to today’s church governing bodies. None of them have had direct input into what scripture says.

The reason that you have this problem is probably because you are still thinking with a Sola Scriptura mindset. SS is dead wrong according to the Word of God and is an errant teaching of men.

That may be, but can you show me that having traditions not present in the apostolic church as rules of faith is supported by scripture?

In my mind, the whole issue of authority is laid to rest when Our Lord tells us to take an errant brother before the church if he remains unrepentant…

In that instance, the “church” is the “assembly of called out followers of Christ”. That is, the congregation of all true believers in Jesus as savior is the group who you must bring an errant brother before.

Why should the majority be used as a measuring rod? It’s the same reason that “the prayers of a righteous man avail much” – by comparing with outside sources, one can remove or lessen the possibility of acting errantly. For instance, let’s say you and I are in the first-century church together. Let’s say I do something you don’t feel is appropriate for a Christian. You approach me; I explain that I believe it’s valid, and that you’re simply biased. So, on the possibility that you are indeed biased, we bring in other sources – first a few, and then the whole congregation. Doing this, while thereby exposing me to potential public ridicule, gives greater certainty of the accuracy and righteousness of the claims against me. If the congregation in question was taught in a godly fashion (as would clearly have been the case in the apostles’ churches), the whole of the congregation will be able to recognize the sin, or lack thereof, and thus appropriate action can be determined.

…as does St. Paul and especially when he tells Timothy that the pillar and ground of the truth is the church.

Absolutely, but there’s no reason to believe Paul spoke of the church as a religious organization, or as anything other than simply the overall congregation of all Christian believers.

You claim that he was speaking of the RCC based on an interpretation by the same entity! This is the circular logic that fails to help any such discussion as this.

Continued…


#10

When Our Lord established His church in the Gospels the authority & promise of infallibility (that the gates of hell will not prevail against it) were given to the apostles and passed down from them.

First, the promise of the gates of hell not prevailing should not be taken to mean that the church will never err. In fact, the promise was given regarding the entire church, and yet, from the very first days of the church (or perhaps calling it a congregation is more helpful), we see that there were those who fell into error. Thus, this clearly did not mean that the entirety of the church would be protected from any error at all. This negates the possibility of that teaching referring to infallibility of any sort.

Second, in regards to apostolic succession, if indeed the promise of infallibility was given to the apostles and their successors, and not just to Peter, then the Great Schism of 1054 should never have happened, much less any of the other schisms in church history.

You again are assuming that infallibility is being promised based on what the RCC says the passage means. But, as before, if the RCC is wrong, then its interpretations may be wrong as well.

The early church that transmitted these sacred truths, (including the canon of scripture) bears no close doctrinal resemblance to the modern post reformation step children, or their errant reformer “heroes”.

So, because Protestantism is wrong, Roman Catholicism is right?

Perhaps both are wrong, or had you not considered such a possibility? What Protestantism teaches is of no value in this thread, for we’re discussing the validity of Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism’s validity only has bearing on it if Protestantism is right (therefore requiring that Roman Catholicism be wrong). If Protestantism is wrong, it doesn’t say anything about Roman Catholicism.

It’s not just the Church’s teaching on infallibility that convinces me but the myriad fruits of the fundamental error of n-C teachings that bear witness against them.:shrug:

In other words, it sounds like you’re just more comfortable with a source that claims to be authoritative. But the question is – what if the RCC is wrong, and it’s not authoritative? What would you do then…and more importantly, how can you even make that determination at all?


#11

Really? And so you have some infallibility that we have not heard of?

There is nothing whatever in the teachings of Sola Scriptura that will ever make your interpretations of the Word of God more authoritative than those of the Catholic Church.

Even if I were to embrace SS…there would still be no authoritative and (anywhere near) well informed interpretation of the Word of God as there is in the Catholic Church. I would be just as lost in high weeds as all the modern n-Cs are because in the final analysis they all sit down with their Bibles in hand and try to interpret what they read. It hasn’t worked in 500 years, it isn’t working today, and it will never work.:shrug:

Why? Because it was never intended by God to work that way.


#12

Maybe it’s just me, and other posters don’t feel this way, but I’d personally like to see some substantiation for your claims, aside from an attempted battle by attrition against Protestantism.

By the way, proving Protestantism wrong does not necessarily make Roman Catholicism right. Both can be wrong at the same time.

Here’s a thought – how about trusting in the words of Jesus (which we all accept to be valid), where he says that the holy spirit will guide us into all truth? I have personally experienced the working of God in my own life, and have had what cannot be classed as anything but divine revelation on some issues. It seems to me that if we’d just open up and listen and obey (that includes me, obviously, as well as everyone else here), God would do the rest.


#13

Nope. :slight_smile: Of course I have the advanage of actually believing in God’s Word and have faith in the Church that Jesus Christ founded. So I have a very comforting and secure anchor.

This from someone whose going by the name “JoyToBeCatholic?” It’s no wonder Truth escapes you.


#14

I disagree. The verifiable writings of the early church are indeed an external source.

With scripture, I ultimately believe in it because the holy spirit has confirmed to me that it is valid.

Ah but even a demon from hell might respond to this with “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15) My point (and no offense intended PCM) is that we hear the self same assertions from a host of n-Cs and yet get conflicting and even contradictory information, so your test is not something that one can trust in. Do you see that?:shrug:

However, the holy spirit has not done the same for the RCC, for me. Thus, I have no means by which to evaluate the validity of the RCC, except for it’s own self-teachings, which to me, could be the work of Satan without us being able to discern that.

Again, who are you? :shrug: My point here is that I could make that same assertion concerning your own teachings can I not? And the fact that, (just for instance), your teachings concerning communion disagree with what I find in the New Testament, as well as the earliest of the ECFs writings means that yours are the suspect ones.

If the RCC is false, what it teaches doesn’t matter. You can’t justify the RCC with its own teachings. You need an external source. Scripture could somewhat be considered external, as it is at the least external to today’s church governing bodies. None of them have had direct input into what scripture says.

Yet catholic teaching is supported by the Word of God…just not by your interpretation of it.

No one has ever proven the Catholic Church false.:wave:

That may be, but can you show me that having traditions not present in the apostolic church as rules of faith is supported by scripture?

A separate thread topic I suppose. Open it and they will come…:smiley:

In that instance, the “church” is the “assembly of called out followers of Christ”. That is, the congregation of all true believers in Jesus as savior is the group who you must bring an errant brother before.

This is one interpretation of this but by no means universally accepted, even today. IMO there are far too many passages where Our Lord gives the Church authority and that had to lead to the hierarchal system that developed. Nothing else works.

Why should the majority be used as a measuring rod? It’s the same reason that “the prayers of a righteous man avail much” – by comparing with outside sources, one can remove or lessen the possibility of acting errantly. For instance, let’s say you and I are in the first-century church together. Let’s say I do something you don’t feel is appropriate for a Christian. You approach me; I explain that I believe it’s valid, and that you’re simply biased. So, on the possibility that you are indeed biased, we bring in other sources – first a few, and then the whole congregation. Doing this, while thereby exposing me to potential public ridicule, gives greater certainty of the accuracy and righteousness of the claims against me. If the congregation in question was taught in a godly fashion (as would clearly have been the case in the apostles’ churches), the whole of the congregation will be able to recognize the sin, or lack thereof, and thus appropriate action can be determined.

Sounds reasonable, (except in Corinth :smiley: ), but the fact is that this has not been the practice of n-Cs even to this day. So why hold the Catholic Church to a standard that n-Cs don’t even hold themselves to?

Absolutely, but there’s no reason to believe Paul spoke of the church as a religious organization, or as anything other than simply the overall congregation of all Christian believers.

So then, knowing as he did that he was bound for martyrdom and having appointed Bishops in every church, you are telling us that he never envisioned anything more complex than that? I think that’s wishful thinking at best my friend. There is no way that the Church can effectively run itself and remain true to the New Testament unless it grew into what we have as the Catholic Church. You may say that it can, but I will simply point out the myriad errors that plague n-Cs and show that it simply does not work that way.

You claim that he was speaking of the RCC based on an interpretation by the same entity! This is the circular logic that fails to help any such discussion as this.

It is not circular logic at all. It is simply the fact that St. Paul plainly contradicts the teachings of Sola Scriptura, and tells Timothy that the pillar and ground of the truth is the church, in the very same way that St. Paul tells him to Carefully study… " and does not specify that his studies should be confined to the scriptures alone. (2nd Timothy 2:15)


#15

mean that the entirety of the church would be protected from any error at all. This negates the possibility of that teaching referring to infallibility of any sort.Here I will agree with you, but only in that you do not follow your own argument to its logical conclusion. That is, that “this clearly did not mean that the entirety of the church would be protected from any error at all.” To which I will say, AMEN! It does however apply to the leaders of the Catholic Church, in the same way that it applied to the all too human apostles, and therefore supports the Catholic infallibility teachings and not those of the various n-Cs.

Second, in regards to apostolic succession, if indeed the promise of infallibility was given to the apostles and their successors, and not just to Peter, then the Great Schism of 1054 should never have happened, much less any of the other schisms in church history.

If you say so…however that is like saying that because some men fail all men fail and that is poor thinking. It also does not consider that nowhere are we ever promised that the course will be without difficulty or conflict, and that is just what that is. I believe that too many people have not thought through the fact that even that schism may not last much longer, as the Holy Spirit is working.

You again are assuming that infallibility is being promised based on what the RCC says the passage means. But, as before, if

the RCC is wrong, then its interpretations may be wrong as well.Not my problem. Can you prove the Church wrong on this? I haven’t seen such evidence so far, and I’m here every day.

As I have already pointed out, I can assert the self same thing concerning your own teachings & interpretations and with better justification since yours are those which do not align with both the New Testament and the writings of the ECF.

So, because Protestantism is wrong, Roman Catholicism is right?

Indeed! But this does not devolve from simple assertion, but from prayerful comparison and study by me over many years, and not mine only but the same of many many before me.

Perhaps both

are wrong, or had you not considered such a possibility? A wasted point since I have already found it not to be the case.

What Protestantism teaches is of no value in this thread, for we’re discussing the validity of Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism’s validity only has bearing on it if Protestantism is right (therefore requiring that Roman Catholicism be wrong). If Protestantism is wrong, it doesn’t say anything

about Roman Catholicism.No, I’m sorry but that won’t work and I will not entertain that as an oppositional argument because you do represent the “Protestant” position. From your own CAF profile:

Religion:
Protestant…mostly

It is wrong to ask Catholics & the Catholic Church to measure up to standards that protestantism cannot since that is very much a case of trading down.

My position is and always will be that Protestantism is wrong and that the Catholic Church is most definitely why. (Cont’d)


#16

In other words, it sounds like you’re just more comfortable with a source that claims to be authoritative. But the question is – what if the RCC is wrong, and it’s not

authoritative? What would you do then…and more importantly, **how can you even make that determination at all?**Ah…a hypothetical…a “what if” game. Why should I even entertain the question unless the Catholic Church has been soundly and conclusively proved to be wrong, (which it patently has not)?

My determinations are based upon the volume of evidence from the Word of God, the teachings of the early church, and the excellence of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. I have sought carefully and studied long and hard and have found nothing to compare with the Catholic Church. In every case when I have compared the answers of the Catholic Church to those of n-Cs, I have found the n-Cs wanting. In fact, were I still a Sola Scriptura believer, I would still have to be Catholic because of the wide variety of n-C teachings that conflict with the Word of God and each other. IMO that disqualifies them as being any kind of sure source of correct teaching. They’ve been changing for the last 500 years, and continue to do so. That cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit. Protestantism is devoid of authority, and the Catholic Church makes a very very good case for its authority and infallibility from the Word of God, which IMO should indeed make n-Cs begin to seriously question what they have been taught.


#17

for your claims, aside from an attempted battle by attrition against Protestantism.I have already offered it many times since I returned to the Catholic faith, and my own post history here at CAF, (with the exception of my Clubhouse posts, which serve as rest from this apologetics.) Display my substantive reasons for rejecting Protestantism.

By the way, proving Protestantism wrong does not necessarily make Roman Catholicism right. Both can be wrong at the same time.

So you have said, but I answer that above…

Here’s a thought – how about trusting in the words of Jesus (which we all accept to be valid), where he says that the holy spirit will guide us into all truth?

Gee…That is why I am a Catholic.:whistle:

I have personally experienced the working of God in my own life, and have had what cannot be classed as anything but divine revelation on some issues.

I can say this same thing PCM, but that does not make them a guarantee of divine inspiration or doctrinal accuracy. I have no problems with the Word of God. I just have problems with some of your interpretations of some passages.

It seems to me that if we’d just open up and listen and obey (that includes me, obviously, as well as everyone else here), God would do the rest.

I hate to tell you this my friend, but this is precisely what I have done and that is precisely why I am Catholic.

It looks to me like you make the mistake of thinking that we faithful Catholics function in some other way, but that is not the case.


#18

You know, if I were walking in the circles you guys are carving out with rhetoric and -]logic/-]…justification, I’d be really, really dizzy.

It’s a really simple premise – the RCC can not be validated by the decisions and interpretations of the RCC.

And of course, you once again miss the point that proving Protestantism to be faulty does absolutely nothing to validate Roman Catholicism.


#19

, I’d be really, really dizzy.You were dizzy before ya ever got to us PCM. :slight_smile:

You don’t like my arguments? Prove me wrong! You make rhetorical statements and then cry foul when I answer in similar fashion. I suspect that the real problem is that you want to “play by your own rules” and they do not allow for others to have an opinion that does not match your own infallible interpretation of the Word of God. In the end it appears that you have one set of rules for you and another set for Catholics. You’ll have to forgive me if I reject them.

It’s a really simple premise – the RCC can not be validated by the decisions and interpretations of the RCC.

That’s ridiculous! If you can prove them wrong them knock yourself out, but don’t tell us that silliness, because you make your own case from "the decisions and interpretations of " protestantism.

And of course, you once again miss the point that proving Protestantism to be faulty does absolutely nothing to validate Roman Catholicism.

I did not set out to prove Protestantism faulty, it just happens all by itself. :smiley:

If protestantism is indeed faulty then it behooves honest n-Cs to carefully study and seek the fullness of truth outside of protestantism. If they are really interested in truth that is…:shrug:

It appears to me that you want us to accept protestant premises as true while rejecting Catholic ones, but that is ridiculous and unfair, and is probably the very kind of circular argument that you are asserting against Catholics.

This is definitely a Catholic forum and so far as I’m concerned my friend, protestantism never gets a free pass. (Ever!)


#20

For me, the best indications come down to:

Which Church has existed since Pentecost in 33 A.D. to the present day?

Which Church produced the Bible?

Which Church has a track record of being resistant to heresy acknowledged by others?

Which Church did Peter head after having been given the keys by Christ?

There can be only one—the Catholic Church.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.