Non-Catholics: Which Supreme Earthly Authority Is Considered to Provide Authoritative Teaching Regarding Your Faith?


#1

Quick authority check regarding non-Catholics:

What is the name of the person or persons whose judgment is definitive and binding upon the faithful in matters of faith and morals for your community?

Please do not respond “Jesus Christ”, “God”, “The Bible” or such; this question is specifially regarding the human teaching authority for your faith, the channel for dogma through which the Holy Spirit works.

For Catholics, the answer is Pope Benedict XVI (see the “Whom Is the Vicar of Christ on Earth” thread).

So who would this be for your non-Catholic community?


#2

There is not one. Even people who have a strong central authority would not use the language you do. At least I have never heard of such outside of group, although I suppose the Unification Church, possibly LDS, or…maybe the board that governs Christian Science churches…I have never heard language like that from the JWs to that extent.


#3

Of course, for the question to matter, and for it to make the point you’re trying to make, you need to establish that…

  1. God intended for there to be an earthly authority over his church (assembly of “called out” followers…not a building).

  2. That a system can’t function without this. Protestants think it can, and have posted lengthy arguments on why this is possible. You’ll need to accurately understand those arguments.


#4

This has all pretty much already been said on here at some point, but this is what I’ve learned:

(and I will consider myself here as a non-C since I’ve been questioning my faith for a few years…)

I would have to say ‘The Bible’, of course, and I doubt there is a Catholic here who’d dare to say that the Catholic Church has a teaching that isn’t somehow connected to scripture (though not explicity).

However…

For you and I (speaking generally) who have had familiarity with scripture and theology and apologetics (even just a bit, from here, reading, tv, etc…) it is easy to take for granted what we have actually been taught and how that influences our understanding/personal interpretation. It is quite impossible to read scripture totally objectively after having been somewhat “indoctrinated” by these influences.

The question of extra-bilical authority is a very valid one if you consider someone who has had no exposure whatsoever to theological dialogue. Like the Ethiopian enuch, there must be some man to guide. It is obvious from the innumerable people claiming to have the authority to guide, and the innumerable contradictions amongst their teachings, that they cannot all be interpreting them correctly. Also, no matter how intelligent and sincere we may be, we all have our own personal handicaps that influence some bias in how we interpret things - iow we have a tendancy to make the scriptures mean what we want them to - and I dare say it is probably impossible for us not to w/out divine guidance. Yes, all us believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit, but do we all “speak the same things” and are we all “of the same mind”? The Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict himself.

It’s tempting to say to yourself, “but we should study and with study should come an understanding of the true interpretation. I believe I (or my Lutheran, JW, Pentacostal, etc… pastor) interpret the scriptures this way b/c I’ve (they’ve) studied them so well over the years and I can see this interpretation so well…” But what about some simpleton or under-priveleged person who doesn’t have the resources or capacity to study them or fairly judge his “guide”/church/pastor/etc…??? Is God excluding them from the truth? Does the truth not matter?

Keep in mind the many ways in which man has grossly distorted the Word of God in the past (and present even) and the results of that…

We need a guide, or we have chaos, and that is obvious if you look around at the ridiculous number of denominations out there.

Authority matters. Someone may think it doesn’t b/c they believe they are well-adjusted, smart, inspired, well-intentioned, etc…, but no matter b/c in the end it is sheer pride that brings one to conclude that they have the correct understanding of scripture. For every smart, well-intentioned, learned, inspired person out there with their own interpretation there is another, equally, smart, well-intentioned, learned, inspired person with a contradicting interpretation. And you can’t say “well, how do I know those other people aren’t well-intentioned, or have some other handicap preventing them from fully understanding?” b/c in the end we all have something that will prevent us (unknowingly) from getting it right. One’s sincerity isn’t going to ensure infallibility.

Just like with civil law, we need an authority. Can’t lay out the Constitution and leave no interpreter/guide.

That said, I think authority is the number one issue preventing non-C’s from being Catholic, and even though I see the point, I’m still not ready to be reconciled with the CC. I still can’t see past some of those “obvious scripture contradictions” that I, admittedly, interpret for myself. Maybe I’m just too proud to admit that they may not be contradictions. I think it is more likely that, b/c they seem so obvious to me, I am scared to ignore them or accept a seemingly valid Catholic defense for them. It’s too easy to accuse yourself of following man above God. It’s more comfortable to say “I believed what I clearly saw in God’s Word. It HAS to be from God!” The words may be, but perhaps not the interpretation…

Peace,


#5

I just want to add that I believe (as my own authority :wink: - but I doubt any would disagree with it anyway [although I might be wrong:p ]) the fear of going against one’s understanding (in this case, of scripture) is a biblical (godly) motivation for holding back. See Romans 14.

That is why we have so many denominations, and that is also why we have so many “divisions” w/in the CC amongst the not-so-orthodox Catholics (cafeteria Catholics, etc.). There really is no difference between the two. Its just that some have chosen to stay w/in the CC and others have chosen to leave b/c their conscience is troubled. I am sure God would prefer we humble ourselves and stay united, but I do think He looks with compassion upon those who are well-intentioned. I don’t think it is an excuse to be content with where we are though, as I am not content right now with being out of communion with the CC and also, more or less “homeless” (although I know of a few, protestant church communities I have considered joining).

The bottom line is you need to have faith, and right now, I just don’t have enough faith in the CC to go back. I would be going against my conscience.

And so here I am attempting to “inform” my conscience with what I believe to be the only authoritative source for that information (not meaning JUST this message board, but rather, CAtholic teaching :thumbsup: ). Hopefully I will get past these supposed contradictions. Either that or I will finally have peace about forever leaving the CC. I’ve come really, really close.


#6

Since the essence of Scripture is not the letter, but the meaning, it is important to have the right meaning if you are truly to receive God’s word.

It is inevitable that disputes come up as to meaning. Who can settle it so that both parties can have faith in the judgment?

If there is no one, and a plurality is simply permitted as to God’s word, His true word would be placed on the same level as falsity–and that is blasphemous.


#7

To go against one’s conscience is to not have true belief.

On the other hand, can you actually say that having a pope has prevented such schisms and solved all these disputes? Of course not!

Admittedly, any sort of king-like figure will often keep many in line for various reasons aside from the decisions he makes. However, the RCC has seen its share of schisms, even with this supposed solution to the problem. People have since established their own leaders who they claim to be the valid pope. If people disagree, they disagree. One has to have faith in the pope for the pope to have the steadying influence you think he has.


#8

Of course having a Pope hasn’t prevented schisms or disagreement, but it isn’t meant to ensure there won’t be. After all, having THE authority (Jesus and the apostles) amongst humanity didn’t prevent chaos either b/c not everyone is going to listen and/or follow the truth/authority. That doesn’t invalidate the authority.


#9

I don’t think the purpose of an earthly authority (even if you believe it is solely the Bible) is to prevent disagreement. The purpose is to provide mankind with answers. No matter what you deem to be the authority, not everyone will respect or obey it.


#10

Joy, have you made a deliberate decision to recover your childlike faith given to you along with physical life by your parents and God (I’m assuming you are a cradle Catholic)? Please, pray for the gift of faith–it is a free gift, and it can be lost. Primarily through pride, as you pointed out. The remedy is humility, being grateful for the huge gift of your Catholic faith which is your birth inheritance; being loathe to reject such a precious birthright.

Please be sure to pray and enter more deeply into the devotional life of the Church, in addition to informing yourself as to the real teachings. Please get the teaching direct from the horse’s mouth–the *Catholic Catechism *itself, and not from any intermediary source. You may be stumbling over an obstacle that doesn’t actually exist.

In fact, contrary to what Protestant pastor PCMaster wishes, the Church teaches the truth, always has. She is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself, visibly led here on earth by the pope. Nothing she teaches now contradicts what she taught before, only expands and develops it. If a teaching bothers you, it is because either it has not been well presented to you, or you don’t fully understand it, or there is some obstacle in your heart to accepting it. Please, pray to soften your heart toward your mother church. Don’t become a lapsed Catholic–because you’ll always be some sort of Catholic, there is no escaping that. It’s much better to be a good one, no? In fact, it’s the best thing there is short of heaven!

Blessings.


#11

Thanks for saying that, Joy; I was getting ready to. Jesus Christ Himself, looking over His Chosen Twelve, would report a defection (as well as some other wavering and unworthy behavior).

Just because not everyone follows the Good Shepherd doesn’t mean He isn’t such. They are just wrong. He goes on shepherding with or without them.

Just because not everyone follows Peter doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t follow him. They are just wrong. He goes on without them, following his and our Lord.

[quote=pcmaster]On the other hand, can you actually say that having a pope has prevented such schisms and solved all these disputes? Of course not!
[/quote]

So this is a pointless point.

[quote=pcmaster]Admittedly, any sort of king-like figure will often keep many in line for various reasons aside from the decisions he makes. However, the RCC has seen its share of schisms, even with this supposed solution to the problem. People have since established their own leaders who they claim to be the valid pope.
[/quote]

People behaving badly proves nothing about what they should have done instead.

[quote=pcmaster] If people disagree, they disagree.
[/quote]

and then, if they are protestant, they found their own church, violating Jesus’ will for Christians.

If they are Catholic, they submit their conclusions to the Church and await her judgment. Thus being humble, securely led, and united to each other, to The Bride, and to her Bridegroom.

[quote=pcmaster] One has to have faith in the pope for the pope to have the steadying influence you think he has.
[/quote]

Nope, contrariwise. That’s an agenda talking. Instead, one has to have faith in the Church. We don’t have faith in the pope, not the formal sense you are attempting to impose here. Don’t mischaracterize, pcmaster.


#12

Very true. Preventing disagreement would be a side-effect of following the same sure leader teaching truth. The primary effect would be learning the truth!

The purpose is to provide mankind with answers. No matter what you deem to be the authority, not everyone will respect or obey it.

:thumbsup:


#13

For Eastern Orthodox, it is the Patriarchs and Councils.


#14

Joy-

Thanks for your thoughtful response, and welcome!

Let’s please get back on track—the question is not whether such an authority is necessary, nor desired, but whether non-Catholics have any at all.

And please provide names. This allows the authority to be tested, for someone else may well say “Hey, I’m a Baptist and we don’t recognize [X].”


#15

The Real answer to the question is the individual Protestant themself which is the whole problem in the first place!


#16

Our head Pastor and overseer (bishop), plus the other elders, definitively determine the doctrine taught to our local community.

Such doctrine is “binding” on no one as such men, as in every church, have no such authority.

The same goes for morals. No moral teaching is “binding” merely because a Pastor forwards it. That would be utterly foolish to embrace. We are called to always discern false doctrine and morals from the good. That is the obligation of every child of God.

Please do not respond “Jesus Christ”, “God”, “The Bible” or such; this question is specifially regarding the human teaching authority for your faith, the channel for dogma through which the Holy Spirit works.

The Holy Spirit already established His dogma in His Word. He does not do so afterwards through men.

Pastors and elders are only to repeat what the Spirit has already taught, not be “channels” for anything else.


#17

Well…some Methodists will say, the Bible.
Some Methodists will say the Wesley Quadrilateral. (Applying & comparing Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Logic).
Some will certainly mention the:D World Famous “Little Red Book”, which is (as*** I*** :wink: often mention) actually a large brown book, “The Book of Discipline”.
The truth is, that all of the above are true, to some extent…But it is also true that there is a famous old Methodist saying that" if you put two Methodists in a room, they will have three opinions among them on any subject".

There is also the fact that Susannah Wesley’s:eek: OCD has been transmitted down through the ages to all of us, and we Wesleyan folk all know that our entire little world is being run by a million & one committees, composed of, well…:blush: us!!
So, if you want to ask me about the church library, or upkeep on the parsonage, I guess I am your authority, because I am part of those particular committees…If the toilet overflows, or the furnace needs mending, in the parsonage, I can tell you what needs to be done. If the toilet overflows in the church, I have absolutely nothing to do with it.
If you need a reputable book on Methodist history and/or theology, I can find it for you in the church library. If you need to talk to someone who actually has studied Methodist history and/or theology, you need to sit down with the pastor, or with the bishop.

I am sure this sounds like:eek: utter chaos. It really isn’t. In fact, the biggest problem is doing a balancing act amongst all the various & sundry authorities. We are:rolleyes: organized to death. (Did I mention that Susannah Wesley had OCD bigtime?) We have all kinds of authority, but it is divided up among all manner of people.

I have the:p sinking feeling that I have just made things worse…:shrug:


#18

Certainly the Methodists are among the better-organized. It is indeed possible to discern what Methodists believe, unlike many other Protestant communities.

So if I have a question regarding interpretation of Methodist theology and teaching, what is the name of the person today who will have the definitive answer, one binding on Methodists?


#19

Thank you.

the question is not whether such an authority is necessary, nor desired, but whether non-Catholics have any at all.

we Wesleyan folk all know that our entire little world is being run by a million & one committees, composed of, well…:blush: us!!

I think that is the crux of it. People believe there is safety in numbers; that they will have a safe interpretation of scripture b/c the majority agree on it. But there are committees overseeing other denominations as well and they are coming up with conflicting doctrines. And again, all well-intentioned etc., but in the end, the intentions don’t guarantee you truth results.

There has to be an infallible authority/guide/interpreter.


#20

If nothing else, someone needs to be tiebreaker to avoid schism. The alternative seems to be to water down the faith to avoid controversy, which some denominations have certainly embraced.

It is no different, really, then asking “Who has the definitive, final say in matters of the conduct of war in your country?” In the United States, that answer is, “The President of the United States”. If NORAD reported incoming nuclear missiles, it is the President’s authorization which would launch America’s own, not a committee nor a book nor Christ.

So let’s name names—our supreme arbiter on Earth is Pope Benedict XVI. Non-Catholics, who is yours?


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