Archives for May 2010

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura is Latin for “by scripture alone” – Christianity defined exclusively by the inspired, written word of God, without extension and without interpretation. God’s word without the corrupting influence of man. Intuitively (but superficially), it makes a lot of sense for everyone who seeks the unmodified truth. Many Protestant faiths embrace it. Catholics do not.

Make no mistake about it, the Holy Bible is central to Catholic beliefs. That is why we canonized (created) it. In the early Church there were many written testaments. They were not yet assembled into a single volume. Many were of questionable providence. Bishops assembled canons of writings as best they could, but there was not a single accepted set. In 382 Pope St. Damasus I issued the Decree of Damasus officially setting the 46 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. This was confirmed at the Council of Carthage in 397 along with formal acceptance of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation (which remains the unchanged Catholic translation to this day). The Holy Bible was also confirmed in 393 at the Council of Hippo and the 419 Council of Carthage.

As important to us as the Holy Bible is, we know it is incomplete. Sacred Tradition has always been part of Christianity. Christians in the first 400 years had no Bible. Jesus taught not in writing, but orally. The Bible itself does not claim to be the complete word of God. Jesus selected the first pope (St. Peter) upon whom to build the Church and to whom His authority was given. The Church and its authority did not end at the deaths of the first pope and bishops. The Church and its authority continues through the bishops who are direct successors of the Apostles. That is the root of Sacred Tradition.

Sacred Tradition is never at conflict with the Holy Bible. It is through Sacred Tradition and the infallibility of the Magisterium that we have the canon of the Holy Bible. It is also through that same source that we accurately interpret it.

Many non-Catholics object to the notion that the word of God needs “interpretation,” even by those who canonized it to begin with. Some say it is self-evident. If only that were so! While divinely inspired and infallibly confirmed as the word of God, the Holy Bible is expressed in static words. Those words have meaning and context which is not self-evident any more than all other words in the history of mankind. Different people, with the most sincere and holy intentions, read them and come to different understandings. Sola Scriptura rooted Protestant denominations differ widely in their interpretations of the Bible. If only one interpretation were possible, they would all have the same beliefs.

In some ways, interpretation of written words is analogous in secular laws. Try though legislators may to make them clear and unambiguous, there remains the need for courts to interpret them. Even a simple word such as “is” can be debated. When Jesus said “Take and eat; this is my body,” what did He mean by “is”? Catholics (and some Protestants) believe one thing while others believe something very different. Bill Clinton famously argued the meaning of “is” when he was impeached. That’s just one small word.

In summary, the “big picture” so far:

  • Jesus created the Church and gave it authority.
  • That authority remains in the Church through Apostolic Succession.
  • The canons of the Holy Bible were infallibly selected by that authority.
  • The Holy Bible is accurately interpreted by that authority.
  • The Holy Bible comes from, and is a part of, Sacred Tradition.

To be clear, the Church – the Catholic Church – decided to create the Bible and selected what would be in it. The authority to do so was not a matter of debate. The Holy Bible went unchallenged for 1,000 years. It remains unchanged by Catholics. There was no concept of Sola Scriptura. It would simply not have made sense.

In the 1400s, a Catholic priest named Martin Luther broke with the Church (a/k/a The Catholic Church), for reasons and circumstances not germane to this post. Acting on his own, Luther removed (demoted really, later removed) 7 Old Testament books (Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees) and portions of others (Esther and Daniel) from the Holy Bible. Luther initially went further – also discarding Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John were also initially axed by his followers).

This editing of Sacred Scripture was necessary to fit Luther’s personal beliefs. Those beliefs now included the new concept of Sola Scriptura since the new schismatic church lacked Sacred Tradition and the authority that made it possible.

To Catholics, Sola Scriptura is a foreign concept born of necessity through schism. The Church Jesus founded thrives under His authority, passed directly through Apostolic Succession and reflected in Sacred Tradition. The Holy Bible itself exists through that authority, not in place of it. The Bible comes from the Church. The Church does not come from the Bible!

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #4)

7 Quick Takes Friday

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado…

This week I have a slew of really wonderful videos. Watch them all!

— 1 —

My friend Carol and I both found this unique rap last week. Maybe it is just that popular. On the other hand, if you have not seen it yet then be sure to check-out how Tamara Lowe delivers the good news:

— 2 —

Catholic first, in the fullness of our faith. What is it? Watch:

— 3 —

This is the story (on CNN no less) of Akiane Kramarik, an amazing young girl. She was born into a family that never discussed God, but she began having visions of heaven at the age of 4 and began painting them at 6.

— 4 —

My friend Tom forwarded a link to me on the work of this gifted artist. Ron DiCianni has created a huge (12′ by 40′), beautiful mural of the resurrection:

— 5 —

These people have something in common. See if you can guess:

— 6 —

Over population is a myth often used to justify contraception, abortion and other sins. Get the facts from these brief, fun and informative videos:

— 7 —

Today’s quote is:

The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.

Pope John Paul II


me at 9 months

There was a time when, what would later become me, was just a mass of cells. These cells were raw biological material. It would not have been a tragedy if they had been destroyed for some good reason. While they would later be the physical ingredients for my existence, they were not me. They were contained partially within my mother and partially within my father.

One day, three “parties” joined together for my creation: my mom, my dad and God. My parents contributed the biological components that God had previously entrusted to them. The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life – took that material and breathed life into it. “It” was immediately transformed into “me” – a life, a person. I got my soul at that moment. Where previously I did not exist, through the miracle of conception, I became the mortal child of my parents. Where previously I did not exist, through the miracle of conception, I became a child of God. “I” was created by all three “parties” as their child and without them, I could not exist.

Ever since I was created I have been growing both physically and mentally. While I continue to grow a little bit daily, every day since I was conceived I have been no more a person than the day before. In my early years I was a toddler, learning from and dependent upon my parents. Before that I was a baby, even more dependent for basic needs such as being fed. Further back, I was more dependent still – physically connected to my mother’s body for nourishment within her womb.

The above paragraphs tell the story of my life. They also tell the story of your life. There have never been any exceptions other than Adam, Eve and Jesus.

My parents were married for life, 72 years ago. World War II threw a wrench into their plans to start a family. They tried to have children without success when my dad returned from the war. Finally, after a decade and a half, my mom was pregnant. She was again two years later with my brother.

Throughout my life there have been many milestones. Some big ones include when my daughter was born, when I was married, when I was baptized, when I was born and when I was created. I was not created when I was born. Leaving my mother’s womb no more made me a person than leaving the hospital did. It was a milestone in my life but somewhat arbitrary. It could have been days or weeks earlier. It could have been later.

Medical science has taught, and continues to teach, us a great deal. Today, few honestly believe that life begins at birth. Never-the-less, for their own selfish reasons, many refuse the fact that life begins at conception. They engage in an absurd debate to “determine” the exact point that life begins as if it is not already known. Some propose it is when the child can survive outside of the womb – or to even do that without assistance. Some have picked the age of 24 weeks; or 22 weeks; or 20 weeks; or some other number. Some suggest life is too real to end when the child can feel pain.

People who are playing these games are not actually interested in understanding God’s gift of life. They are interested only in redefining its creation to a later time in order to end it without legally being murder. Many with well formed consciences will try in vain to convince themselves of this too, in order to live without the guilt of what they have done.

Catholics know that life begins at conception and that God has quite clearly commanded us not to kill (Genesis 9:6, Leviticus 24:17, Matthew 5:21, Matthew 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, James 2:11.

We are opposed to abortion simply because it is murder. Abortion is intrinsically evil. Your mother’s pregnancy was not a medical condition. It was a period in her life during which her body provided you with shelter and nourishment. Back when you were completely defenseless, she did not “choose” to “terminate” you by poisoning you, crushing your head, or ripping you from her body to let you die abandoned.

Your arrival into the world may have been inconvenient. Maybe your mom was not married or felt that she was too young. Maybe you were otherwise unplanned or part of a large family already struggling. Your mom did not have you killed so that it would be easier for her or your family.

Your mom may have been aware that some would say that you were less than physically perfect. She may have been advised that your life would be short. Yet, she did not condemn you to immediate death.

Your mom may have risked her life bringing you into the world. She did not take your life in an attempt to protect her own.

Your mom may have been the victim of a terrible crime such as rape or incest. She did not compound that tragedy by sacrificing your life as well.

Government morally exists to protect society, not facilitate the destruction of its members. Politicians who say that they are against abortion personally but are “pro-choice” are saying they will not murder but are not opposed to others doing so. They almost always are not only open to such murders, but work with great persistence and determination to facilitate them, make them widely available, obscure their true nature and pay for them from the public treasury.

In the taking of defenseless, innocent life, Catholics do not have the option of standing on the sidelines. We have the moral duty to participate in elections and may vote only for candidates who support life. Our bishops have again and again told us that no other issue, no matter how important it is, trumps life. No rationale, rationalizing, party loyalty or social justice considerations can possibly trump life itself. That is the firm teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is actually very simple. Abortion is always murder, it is always morally wrong and nothing is more important than life.

If you are unsure that abortion is always wrong, consider cases such as Rebecca Kiessling who was conceived from a brutal, knife-point rape by a serial rapist: