Now, I’m not a person with a traditionalist (or very conservative) view of Church, politics, etc.
So I was thinking about the magisterium, and the Church, and authority, etc. and asked myself this:
Q. How do you know that the Church is correct?
Well, there is always the scripture that states that “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18)
Well then, how do you know that scripture is correct?
Because the Church tells me so.
Sounds like a classic circular argument to me.
Now I know that the Church existed before the Bible, and that we (I’m Catholic too) rely on Scripture and Tradition. However, when anyone questions a particular doctrine of the Church (ordination of women for example), the usual response is some sort of “argument from authority”.
So regress a little - where does the Church get it’s authority? Matt 16:18. Where does Matt. 16:18 get its authority, the Church.
The Church got its authority from Jesus Christ. He gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matt. 10:1,40 - Jesus declares to His apostles, “he who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me.” Jesus freely gives His authority to the apostles in order for them to effectively convert the world.
Matt. 16:19; 18:18 - the apostles are given Christ’s authority to make visible decisions on earth that will be ratified in heaven. God raises up humanity in Christ by exalting his chosen leaders and endowing them with the authority and grace they need to bring about the conversion of all. Without a central authority in the Church, there would be chaos (as there is in Protestantism).
Luke 10:16 - Jesus tells His apostles, “he who hears you, hears Me.” When we hear the bishops’ teaching on the faith, we hear Christ Himself.
Luke 22:29 - the Father gives the kingdom to the Son, and the Son gives the kingdom to the apostles. The gift is transferred from the Father to the Son to the apostles.
Num 16:28 - the Father’s authority is transferred to Moses. Moses does not speak on his own. This is a real transfer of authority.
John 5:30 - similarly, Jesus as man does nothing of His own authority, but He acts under the authority of the Father.
John 7:16-17 - Jesus as man states that His authority is not His own, but from God. He will transfer this authority to other men.
John 8:28 - Jesus says He does nothing on His own authority. Similarly, the apostles will do nothing on their own authority. Their authority comes from God.
John 12:49 - The father’s authority is transferred to the Son. The Son does not speak on his own. This is a transfer of divine authority.
John 13:20 - Jesus says, “he who receives anyone who I send, receives Me.” He who receives the apostles, receives Christ Himself. He who rejects the apostles and their successors, rejects Christ.
John 14:10 - Jesus says the Word He speaks is not His own authority, but from the Father. The gift is from the Father to Jesus to the apostles.
This is where your argument falls down, as Catholics do not rely only on Scripture to know that the Church is correct. Read this. Basically, you can rely on the Biblical books and the writings of the early church fathers as being reliable historical books. From that starting point, you can determine that the Church is correct. Only then can you know what defines Scripture, as it is the Church that tells us what defines Scripture.
We also have History. History shows us a list of Popes going all the way back to St. Peter, which is how we know that Matthew 16:18 and John 21:15-19 are, in fact, true.
History shows us that what the Apostles taught (Tradition) is still being taught in the Church today. We also know that the Scriptures are true because History shows us that what was prophesied did actually happen.
It seems as though you are unfamiliar with the logic of Tradition, of which Scripture is but one part.
To begin with, we assert that there was a historical personage known as Jesus, who did some fairly remarkable things and then rose from the dead. He then left His Apostles to carry on His message throughout the world. It is important to understand that for the first thirty years or so, this early church did not have any of the Gospels that we know today. Therefore the authority of the Church and its Apostles precede Scripture.
So how do we know that the Church is correct? We know that the Church is correct because it has its origins in Jesus Christ and this can be shown through the historical record.
[FONT=Arial]We know that Scripture is correct as an aspect of the authority of the Church that we have gleaned from the historical record.[/FONT]
I tend to agree with the OP. The circular argument thing bothers me too. Yes, of course, I realize that we have a direct historical link to the Apostles. Yes the history of the Church is as reliable as any secular history from the ancient world. But when you get right down to it, lots of ancient people (modern people too) believed in strange things. That doesn’t mean that I want to believe in them too. Face it, folks. You just don’t get God taking on human flesh, virgin birth and resurrection from the dead through cold hard logic and historical reasoning.
Here is how I got past all that.
I was raised Baptist, but I quit going to church at all when I was around 18. I never abandond a belief in God, but which God, and which expression of that God gave me fits. I figured that no good reason existed to believe in one religion over another, and no one could give me a reason to do so other than this book or that book or this teacher or that teacher said so. That just was never good enough for me.
I married a Catholic but really didn’t participate in Church with her until our oldest son (we have 3) started getting old enough to go to CCD. Soooooo…my wife got fed up with me not participating and said basically, “Ok if you don’t want to go to Church with us, then you do it. You be the religious leader in the family and we’ll follow you.” Basically putting the burden on me to get up and do something. Very clever of her if somewhat devious.
To make a very very long story short, I will leave out the bulk of the details. The bottom line is that I decided that no matter what religion, or denomination of a religion, you choose to follow, ultimately you have to make a leap of faith. John Paul II compared faith and reason to two wings of the same dove. I like that a lot. The dove needs both wings get off the ground. Faith to trust the Church. Reason for everything else. Since I took the leap of faith and chose to trust the Chruch, everything else has been much eaiser. That faith, of course, has been confirmed through experiences with the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit did not touch me until I chose to trust. That’s the chatch, I suppose.
The point of all this is simply that I don’t believe you can follow the Church (or any other group or religion for that matter) through logic and historical data alone. Because no matter what anyone else on this fourm may say it takes faith to believe. You just can’t get where your going with logic alone. While at the same time, as Benedict XVI has reminded us, religion can’t divorce itself from logic. A dove just can’t fly with only one wing.