Monday, November 26, 2018

Refuting The "Catholicism Is Objective, Protestantism Is Subjective" Quibble

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Leila Miller wrote an article titled "Catholicism is objective, Protestantism is subjective", attempting to illustrate how the Sola Scriptura model results in hopeless doctrinal confusion and anarchy. The author portrays non-Catholic interpretations of biblical texts in a general sense as being inherently relativistic, with the Roman Catholic Church being the exclusive source of absolute truth. The purpose of this article is to show the intellectual dishonesty of such rhetoric, beginning with an excerpt from the author:

          "...this new paradigm of each Christian interpreting Scripture for himself means that there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are Protestants. As you can imagine, this leads to a host of problems for a religion that exists to proclaim Truth."

          The inspired authors of the Bible wrote for the express purpose of instructing believers in their absence (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:10). Scripture was meant to be understood by the man who has a basic education. Truths related to salvation and the gospel are relatively simple for us to comprehend. Other parts of the Bible are more difficult for us to understand. Sometimes we may even need people to explain a passage, but that does not require a complex church hierarchy. The "paradigm" that the author speaks of is certainly not new, as it was the Bereans who were considered noble for daily searching the Scriptures to test the gospel message delivered by the apostles (Acts 17:10-11). 

          "Protestants will tell you that sincere Christians can find the Truth easily, because the "Scriptures are clear" -- and yet Protestants cannot seem to agree on even the essentials of salvation."

          Apart from the obvious fact that the above quotation is a bald-faced lie, the same logic is advanced by other cultic groups such as the International Churches of Christ. We do have disagreements on secondary issues. We do have disagreements that are more peripheral in nature. There are differences that are more philosophical in nature than they are exegetical. There are also pseudo-Christian sects which totally disregard what the Bible says. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura should not be disregarded simply because individual congregations have departed from the realm of biblical orthodoxy. People can reject what Scripture says in spite of its clear teaching. Whenever the sufficiency of Scripture is denied, anything goes. Our Lord Jesus Christ defeated the devil by saying three times, "It is written" (Matthew 4:1-11). Why not emulate His perfect example in spiritual discernment? If a child like Timothy could understand Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15), then why cannot the same be true of us?

          "Catholics, thankfully, don't have that headache. We know what the Church teaches on every issue that touches on salvation, because Tradition has been handed down intact throughout the centuries, both written and orally, and those teachings are accessible to all."

           But the truth of the matter is that Roman Catholics are a doctrinally diverse group. There are just as many divisions within the Roman Catholic Church as there are Roman Catholics themselves. Catholics disagree on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Catholics disagree on the number of ex-cathedral pronouncements. Catholics disagree on the number of teachings which should be considered infallible, and even what they are. Catholics disagree as to the meaning of several passages in the Bible. Many contemporary Catholic Scripture scholars do not even uphold the inerrancy of Scripture. There has even been a threat of schism within the Church of Rome with the more traditionalist folks on the issue of homosexuality. The Catholic teaching on the death penalty is subject to change. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches uphold contradictory doctrine, which is significant because both make identical claims of possessing the fullness of God given truth. Consider this excerpt from a Roman Catholic website called Ignitum Today on the issue of Catholics being divided on the dogma of transubstantiation:

           "According to John Young, theologian and philosopher, “Protestants reject transubstantiation, and so do many Catholic scholars. The average Catholic is vague concerning the nature of the Eucharistic presence of Christ, and one can sympathize with him, in view of the lack of clear teaching about the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

           He further asserts, “The basic objection to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is not that it is against Scripture, but that it is against reason.” Theologian and professor at Virginia Seminary, Charles P. Price similarly believes that “most Catholics, without realizing it or perhaps considering it, actually believe in Consubstantiation,” as did Luther, and even a Catholic would be hard-pressed to refute the allegation."

            Is not the dogma of the Mass central to Roman Catholicism? Indeed it is. Yet, the above report plainly tells us that a fairly large number of Roman Catholics do not agree on this issue. Thus, the claims of unity existing within the Roman Catholic Church are greatly inflated. Does this mean that the Magisterium needs an infallible interpreter?

           "At base, the divide between Protestants and Catholics boils down to authority. If there is no earthly, human authority, if everyone gets to decide for himself what the Bible means, then we have a system of subjectivity and chaos."

           The Roman Catholic Church cannot simply make itself the final authority, for that is a circular appeal. There has to be an infallible spiritual standard for us to use in testing doctrine, and that rule of faith is Scripture. 

           The claim of "Bible only Christians" being "subjective" is ironic, since Roman Catholics subjectively believe the Roman Catholic Church to be "objectively" authoritative. We all have to make decisions when searching for truth. Nobody is exempt from using their fallible reasoning faculties in discernment. Everybody has to fallibly interpret communicated messages. If one rejects this proposition, then he or she cannot even begin to argue against Sola Scriptura. There has to be a point at which the "fallible" meets the "infallible." Catholics cannot have their cake and eat it too.

           Scripture does interpret Scripture. When studying, a person should take into account the surrounding context, cross references, and various literary devices. We should be approaching Scripture with a humble and prayerful heart. The Word of God should be treated with utmost respect. Not every argument or interpretation is equally valid.

            Notice how the author has to misrepresent Sola Scriptura in order to make her case. There are divisions within the Protestant realm, which is truly unfortunate. However, the Roman Catholic Church also has numerous problems of its own. This is true of all denominations. If Sola Scriptura is invalidated due to the existence of divisions, then the same must also be true of "Sacred Tradition" and the Magisterium. Having some sort of a referee available to settle disputes does not amount to having no disputes of any type. The pope has been very ineffective in resolving theological problems.

           Now, a Catholic apologist may inquire, "But who's interpretation of Scripture should we side with?" My reply would be, "With those who have the correct interpretation." Truth is not unknowable. Truth is not indiscernible. Truth is not subjective, but objective. Whatever the scenario may be, we must examine the evidence and follow where it leads. Roman Catholic apologists must independently examine evidence in order to argue the truthfulness of the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, they must judge the validity of the Roman Catholic Church in order to argue their position. Private interpretation is inevitable. Fundamental doctrines such as the incarnation, virgin birth, inerrancy, and the deity of Christ can clearly be derived from Scripture.

           Most of the time, false doctrine can easily be exposed by consulting context. Scripture gives us certainty in the midst of spurious teaching (Proverbs 22:17-21; Luke 1:1-4). The author of the article being critiqued may believe that personal Bible reading has resulted in the church becoming doctrinally fractured, but the text itself emphatically disagrees with her. The real problem is the serious ignorance of Scripture prevalent amongst professing Christians. The problem is not with the inspired text itself, but a willfully sinful condition of the human heart. The author's attacks on the integrity of God's Word are remarkably cultish. In a certain respect, this argumentation places the Catholic apologist alongside with the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. Only the cults demand blind, unquestioning submission to an earthly organization. There is no objectivity about that. In fact, such can be rather dangerous. One of several things that us "Bible only Christians" can unanimously agree on is that Rome preaches heresy.

1 comment:

  1. Catholics are soooooo funny! What about the times in history when there was more than one pope? Which one had the authoritative teaching?!?!?

    What simple-minded Catholics refuse to understand is that ALL of the doctrine of Mary is missing from the Bible and developed beginning centuries after the N.T. church. That's just one of the many subjective teachings of Rome. So don't tell me that non-Catholics are the only ones with subjective beliefs!