"We are the Church"


Quick question:

While talking about faith issues with a friend of mine, I brought up the point that he cannot just put his own personal spin on any part of Scripture to make it mean what he wants it to mean. He has to check that his interpretation sqaures with Catholic teaching…

I went on to tell him that the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture and not us as individuals. To which he responded: “WE ARE THE CHURCH”.

Is there a formal heresy that espouses such a belief? Or does this position actually have a name? It was almost as if he was trying to blur/dilute the distinction between the authorative Church and the laity… I know that certain groups – Calvary Chapel/Baptists come to mind – maintain that there is no clergy/laity distinction…


he is probably referring to the baptists’ emphasis on the priesthood of the laity.

That’s a different but probably related idea to that of interpreting scripture for oneself.

Technically, the Catholic Church is said to have interpreted only a few verses of the Bible in an official way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is considered to be a good survey of the beliefs of the Church, but falling far short of interpreting the entire Bible.


To make a statement “We are the Church”, is biblical . . . true.

John 10:3,4,11,27,28 - he calleth his own sheep by name - the sheep follow him for they know his voice - the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep - my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me - and I give unto them eternal life.

Ephesians 5:25 – Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.

* church - Greek: ekklesia - "a calling out"; hence "the called" of God.

Proverbs 20:12 – The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.

Isaiah 50:5 – He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned - the Lord God hath opened mine ear.

Matthew 11:15 – He that hath ears to hear, let him hear –

* hear - Greek: akouo - to understand by imperative command; having the same effectual work of God as when he said "Let there be light" - It is so.

In ancient Israel the kingdom was considered a sheepfold, ruled by a shepherd-king. The subjects were called sheep (Ezek. 34:2-10). The whole people of Israel was designated “the church” as a divinely called congregation. The early Christians believed themselves to be this “church” or true sheep of Israel. Stephen spoke of this church being in the wilderness with Moses (Acts 7:38). The church (called out) and sheep are equivalent terms. The sheep are “called out” of this world to live righteously as the kingdom of God (Luke 17:21). Israel was called The Kingdom of God (or heaven). Jesus as the shepherd-king died only for His sheep (the church). Jesus died for an exact people.


His view is more like “I AM THE CHURCH” not “WE ARE THE CHURCH”.


I’ve been thinking about this statement for a good 15 minutes now. For the life of me, I really don’t understand the distinction. Could you please explain what it is you mean?


“I AM THE CHURCH” implies I am solely the Church. Rather than “I am PART of the Church.” Recognizing your small (but important) role in the Church is an necessary exercise in humility. Submitting to the authority of the Church in matters of scriptural interpretation is an exercise in obedience and in faith.


There’s something incorrect about the bolded piece here. Jesus died for all. Not an exact people.

“We are the church” is correct, in so far that we are members of The Church. “The Church” itself exists apart from us, for we can depart from it, and re-enter at any time.

“We are the church” to suggest that each individual “IS” the church cannot be feasible because each individual thinks differently. Even though we have Christ as our common denominator, we still think differently. If you listen to 12 different pastors, who are good Christians, they preach 12 different versions of a same passage; and some are completely contradictory to others!



Every baptized Christian is a member of the Body of Christ, the Church. However, most Christians are not fully united with the Body in the way that Christ intended. Jesus built His church on the Apostles, with Peter as the Rock. Persons who are not in union with the successors of the Apostles are not fully united with the Church as Jesus intended.

Persons who reject the Apostolic Authority appointed by Jesus are generally called “Protestants”. This is so because they “protest” against the structure that Jesus designed, preferring a man-made structure instead.

The laity are to do nothing without the bishop, since the bishop is the one who embodies and represents the Apostolic Succession.


I would guess that what the friend meant by his statement is that the spiritual Church is the entire body of Christian people, of which he and you are members. The Catholic Church accepts this (it is not a heresy), but also believes that the Church has a visible dimension as well; it is not just spiritual or “invisible.” “Both visible and invisible.” Your friend accepts the spiritual church as “The Church,” but not the visible, institutional Church known as the Catholic Church. It is a common distinction among Protestants, who tend to think of the CC as just another denomination.


Welcome back, tabcom. The person speaking to the OP has rejected the authoritative teaching of the Apostolic Succession appointed by Christ, and replaced it with his own.

How is this relevant to you anyway? I thought you don’t believe in water baptism? That being the point of entry into the Church, it would be difficult for you to apply any of these concepts to yourself, and the strange sect to which you belong. :blush:


In my opinon, not only did it seem to me that he accepted the “spiritual Church”… but he seemed to give IT the authority to determine what Scripture meant regardless of whether that interpretation clashed with other Catholic teaching.

It is what it seemed like to me because the context in which he said it was when I opposed a certain private interpretation on Scripture and told him, “the Church interprets Scripture for us; we cannot just start making it mean whatever we wish it to mean”.

That’s when he fired back with, “WE are the Church”. It seemed to imply that he was pitting our private authority to translate Scripture against any an “institutional” Church might have.

By the way – this guy is Catholic but has been hanging around a lot of Baptists lately – I don’t know if that helps explain anything…


The word Church can mean a lot of different things. In one sense, it is all the Baptized united in one faith. In another sense, it is the bishop, his presbyteriate and diaconate, and the faithful subject to him. In another sense, it is the building where the faithful meet for worship. Finally, the Magisterium is often called the Church.

So, in some sense, it is most correct to say we are the Church. And in handing down the proper interpretation of Scripture, the faithful do have their role to play. Of course, those who abandon the unity of faith, or who have never attained to it in the first place, no longer have this role. Likewise, the final say always comes down to the Roman Pontiff and the bishops teaching in union with him. The priest, deacons, and faithful must be united in faith to them. That is how the Church as a whole gives her interpretation. :slight_smile:


Individually we are not the Church. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, The Church. Private interpretation of Scripture that conflicts with the Magisterium of the Catholic Chruch is in error.


If this is what he meant, then he needs to explain what happens when “we” get together (meaning, let’s say, any five Christians) and “we” disagree over a Scripture, as will probably happen. How do “we” decide which is the best interpretation?

This issue, over the need for something like a Magisterium, was crucial for me personally in my journey toward the CC. There is really no way to get around it: it’s either this or private interpretation.


It has become quite an erroneous fad among some Catholics to say “We are the Church”; rather, Christ extended in us is the Church. Thus only what is done out of this union with Christ in us is the Church, such as teaching on faith or morals by the Magisterium, the sacramental life of the Church, the acts of virtue done in grace by the faithful, above all the lives of heroic sanctity of the Saints. All this is Christ IN US who cooperate with Him. It takes divine faith that the Church is this Great Mystery of union between Christ and His Body to see this; a purely sociological approach misses this entirely as does an historical/scientific approach without faith.

And it is this sociological approach which presumes that the poor version of Catholicism exemplified by many “American Catholics” is one to be foisted on the faithful universally as a purer presentation of Christ teaching in and through His Church, than that specifically given us through the ones entrusted by virtue of their Apostolic Office to preserve the Faith counter what those who have embraced the secular, and spiritually-illiterate culture desire who have no authority but their own presumption.

A helpful article:



Protestantism is the heresy that this refers to.


Many Baptists believe in what they call “Person Interpretation of Scripture”. This means exactly what it says that an individual person may interpret scripture as the Holy Spirit guides them. The problem is with the question: “When do you know it is the Holy Spirit guiding you?” You don’t. That is why there are so many offshoots of Protestantism out there.

Another term that can be used is “Christian Relativism”. :mad:


Yes! It explains a lot. Baptists don’t recognize the Magesterium. In scripture, “the Church” is defined as those in union with the Apostles and those appointed by them. Everyone who separates themselves from that unity separates themselves more and more from the true “Church”. This is why we call Baptists our “separated brethren”. Most of them don’t even know what Apostolic Succession is.


Please provide citation to support this statement.


I am willing to do this, if there is anyone else who is interested in addition to yourself tabcom. However, having spent hours of research working on posts for you about water baptism, only to find that it went into a black hole of denial, I am not sure that it would be a good use of my time.

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.