In Light of Our Sharp Division on Interpreting God’s Word…
Although our Roman Catholic friend Letting Smoke Out has entirely differing views from myself on almost everything related to the authority to teach the Scriptures, I still believe there is enough of a contact point in the Bible for us to proceed with this dialogue. LSO assumes that only the Roman Catholic leadership has the ability to interpret the Scriptures, and I assume on the other hand, as have so many of my Christian predecessors, that the Holy Spirit is the light of truth and authority. He does not speak only to a few men in Rome, but rather the Apostolic faith is carried among those who have received the gospel as a gift by grace through faith. Priesthood of believers, you know? Peter calls us a royal priesthood there in 1 Peter 2:9 – and he was speaking to the general congregation of Christians, not a special class of clergymen.
LSO and I do not have the space or time to debate all of the many historical issues surrounding early Christianity and how the Bible was canonized, etc… however, I believe we can at least look at the Scriptures and agree that since it is God’s infallible Word, that it is the authority concerning our religion and lives. If anyone teaches anything contrary to the Scriptures, it is nullified and furthermore, dangerous.
In light of this, I will briefly challenge a couple of points in LSO’s opening remarks. Although much of what he wrote is fraught with logical and historical fallacies, the main issue I have to mention is from this quote:
If the Bible is clear then why do so many Christian faith communities disagree about interpretation? […]Why are there over thirty thousand denominations? This reality proves there needs to be one authorized interpreter of scripture.
The picture you paint is majorly skewed. You know as well as I do that within so-called Catholicism (from the Greek for “Universal”), there is anything but uniformity of doctrine. The Catechism has as many interpretations as professors, and your number includes hundreds of orders, sects, schismatics, and dissidents. This is, however, besides the point of “the path of salvation,” yet I have to at least try to let some air out of that balloon before we look at the doctrine of salvation. It is not “Bible Only” as LSO’s post is entitled, but rather “Bible is Supreme,” and all doctrine must be aligned with what God has said in His explicit revelation.
In conclusion of this point, I must use absurdity to illustrate. LSO states:
Private interpretation means every single Christian can claim to be their own church; every single piece of scripture can be seen in a different light; every belief can be unique.
Yes, and there may be giraffes on Pluto – giraffes which chew bubble gum and do calculus, but it is the furthest thing from an accurate, realistic hypothesis. It is a similar idea with this “every Christian for himself” canard which Roman Catholics seem to play. The question is not, are there 3,000 or 30,000 denominations and interpretations, but rather, “did God speak clearly so as to be understood?”
Rules of Interpreting Scripture: Context, Context, and Context
I, and my legacy of 1,900 years of my orthodox Christian predecessors would stand together and say “yes!” – God has spoken so as to be understood. The problem is not a lack of a central authority to interpret, but rather the presence of sin in our fallen flesh – pride, arrogance, lusts, and all forms of selfishness obscure the clear proclamation and interpretation of God’s Word.
Not every passage is simple, but there are sure means of staying within the bounds of orthodoxy and sanity. I will use the historical/grammatical method of interpretation, that is, the writer had a specific meaning to which he wrote using specific words, grammar, and syntax. The Holy Spirit who was promised to every believer is alive and enlightening the mind as I read Scripture. I could go on concerning the interpretation of Scripture, but suffice to say, when the Bible says “red,” it does not mean “blue.”
1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
LSO, would it be alright to move on to the topic at hand, and if you’d like to hash out the authority issue further, we could do so via private e-mail? Our readers are surely informed of our foundational positions concerning authority.
I am going to move immediately into the topic “The path of salvation” after this is published, and will attempt to publish that one within hours.
Grateful for the Bible – and for LSO,
Parts in this series:
“Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos
“Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out
“Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos
“Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out
“Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos