Sometimes in discussions between Catholics and Protestants, it is interesting to see how their minds operate. Catholics are geared to think one way, while Protestants have a different mentality. We recently read an article that clearly demonstrated the difference between the two. The article is titled, “Is Catholicism Biblical? That Question is Backwards!” by Dr. Jeff Mirus. It can be found here:
The Cart Before the Horse?
In the article, Mirus recognizes the fact that Protestants (in general) see the Bible as the ultimate authority for the Christian. According to Protestants, it is (or should be) the Rule of Faith. But Mirus finds fault with this concept and believes that we Protestants have it all backwards. He states:
“The key question is not whether Catholicism stands the test of Scripture, but whether Scripture stands the test of Catholicism.”
He also says that it is “not whether the [Catholic] Church is Scriptural… [but] whether Scripture is Catholic—whether what we call ‘scripture’ is or is not part of the original Revelation which the Church received.”
And again, he says, “The Bible did not give rise to the Catholic Church; the Catholic Church gave rise to the Bible.”
According to Mirus, this was all because “the Church came first.” That is, the church was established before the Bible was, and it was the church that then “created the Bible by definitively proclaiming which early writers were inspired and which were not.”
But is this true?
A Faulty Foundation
All right, notice that Mirus is operating on several false premises:
First, the Scriptures were not at all “created” by the church. The early church simply recognized the Scriptures (the infallible writings) that God, Himself, created. It was by His inspiration that every word was divinely spoken, recorded and preserved. Yes, God used people as instruments to hear it, and to write it down, but He is the Creator of Divine revelation, which contains HIS thoughts and HIS plans (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). It is erroneous and arrogant to say that the church “created the Bible.”
Second, the church did not “come first” (i.e., before the Bible). The Old Testament (which makes up about three-forths of the Bible) has been around for hundreds of years before the church ever existed. Although the church started before the canon (list of inspired books) was complete, it is not true that the church pre-existed Scripture. This claim is deceptive, at best.
Third, it seems that every time there is a controversy with Protestants, Catholics will say something like, “But the Catholic Church is right because she gave us the canon!” This seems to be the “go to” answer in many of their arguments! But see these links which put this false idea to rest:
But building upon Mirus’ first two points above, he believes that since it is the church that has recognized which of the books are actually Scripture, that this somehow means that the Bible should be subject to the church. But recognizing or discovering something does not make you lord over it. Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity did not give him any authority over gravity. He discovered it, but he was still subject to its forces. Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity in no way made him master over this powerful force, either. It is the same with the church and Scripture. The church recognized the inspired books, but the church is still subject to those books’ authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The fourth false premise is the way most Catholics use the word “Church.” Notice how Mirus uses the term in his article:
- “… the Church’s infallible authority.”
- “… only the Church could identify which books were…inspired…”
- “What is the judgment of the Church about this text?”
- “Does the Church judge it to be inspired?”
- “… only by the authority of the Church…”
- “…the Tradition and teachings of the Church…”
- “… Revelation which the Church received.”
In each of these, the Catholic assumes a reference to an infallible hierarchy of leaders within the organization. This demonstrates the deep-rooted mindset of the devout Catholic. Now, in contrast, notice how the Bible uses the word “church.” Note that it is only used in two ways: as either 1) the local assembly of believers, as a whole (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Revelation chapters 1, 2, and 3), or 2) the “universal” body of Christ, including all true believers worldwide (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:17-18). It is never used in the Bible to refer to a church leader (or leaders) only. In the way that Mirus uses the seven examples above, none of them fit the biblical definition. This point is very important, but seems to be missed by most people. This subtle difference in the misuse of the term “church” is ingrained in the Catholic and it becomes a deep-seated part of his mentality.
The next time you hear a Catholic use the term “the church,” listen closely and see if he is speaking of the leaders only (for example, “the Church teaches…”, or “the Church’s infallible authority…”)… OR, if is he using it biblically. Substitute his use of it with the phrase “local assembly of believers,” or “the universal church worldwide” to see if his meaning actually lines up with the way the Bible uses the term.
Who Serves Who?
Catholics will officially claim that the Catholic Church serves Scripture (“Dei Verbum,” Chapter 2, paragraph 10), which would make their Church a SERVANT thereof, but it is obvious in practice that they see their Magisterium as ABOVE the Bible. For example:
If the Bible says A about a particular topic, but the Ecumenical Councils say B, the Catholic will go with B.
If the Bible says C, but “Sacred Tradition” says D, the Catholic will choose D.
If the Bible says X, but church fathers say Y, the Catholic will say Y.
Time and time again, the Bible is put on the back burner so that the Catholic Church can be exalted.
It is hard to take the Catholic Church’s supposed “servant” status toward the Bible seriously, when Catholics like Dr. Mirus write this kind of article.
In this next pitiful attempt to weaken the authority of Scripture, Mirus said:
“But Revelation was not given to a book but to persons. Revelation was not even given originally in and through a book. It was given by Jesus Christ to His apostles and disciples.”
But saying that revelation is not given to a book, but to persons, is like saying that money is not given to a bank, but to tellers. The point is, the money eventually ends up in the bank and is stored and protected there. In the same way, infallible revelation is ultimately “stored” in the Bible, even if first given to men.
Yes, folks, this is the mentality of the devout Catholic. He claims to have equal devotion to Scripture and to the Church’s Tradition (CCC #82), but in practice, the Bible often takes a back seat.
Jeff Mirus’ article is a good example of many Catholics’ condescending attitude toward the Bible. Saying things like, “[it’s] not whether Catholicism stands the test of Scripture, but whether Scripture stands the test of Catholicism,” is not only untrue, but it also clearly demonstrates arrogance. You can’t say things like that and still have a truly healthy respect for Scripture (See Psalm 119). It is the Catholic Church’s great (and false) claims about itself that give rise to this type of mindset.