Monday, August 2, 2010

Reflections on Scripture Disputes Between Christians

Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death! (Proverbs 16:25)

(I think this article needs to be written before going on with my Infallibility series, based on certain accusations that Catholics "ignore" Scripture)


There is an old joke which runs as follows:

Two ministers of rival denominations found it necessary to share a cab, and as they travelled, they began to converse.  Both were surprised to learn they shared mutual interests and they had a pleasant conversation.

Arriving at the first destination, the first minister said, "You know I don't see why we can't get along.  After all, we're both trying to serve the Lord, aren't we?"

Getting out, the second minister said, "That's true.  You serve the Lord in your way, and we serve the Lord in His."

There is a truth to this anecdote which we would do well to remember, and that is we must serve the Lord in His way and not in ours.  Who accurately interprets Scripture and who errs?  Remember that with contradictory claims, one must be wrong and the other right, while with contrary claims, both can be wrong, but it is possible neither is right.

Now, between Catholics and Protestants, and between different denominations of Protestants, (or for that matter between Christians and Jews concerning the Old Testament) there are disputes over the meaning of Scripture, where conflicting claims are made as to the teachings, and such disputes are a stumbling block for the world to whom we have been required to preach the good news to.

A Common Assumption

There are times when I receive comments from a person who is quite sincere in his or her belief attacking the Catholic position on the grounds that the Catholics "ignore" certain passages of the Bible.  The problem is, this accusation makes a certain assumption:

  1. When I [Read the Bible] I see [Teaching X]
  2. [Catholics] don't believe [Teaching X]
  3. Therefore, [Catholics] don't [Read the Bible]

Why is this assumption a problem?  Because it assumes [Teaching X] is true, when this is actually a matter to be proven.

The question is: Is [Teaching X] true?  If Catholics [Read the Bible] and don't see [Teaching X], then it comes down to an issue of who is authorized to interpret Scripture to make a decision on [Teaching X].  Catholics believe the Church in communion with the Pope has that right.  Other denominations deny this, and insist on things like the Plain Sense of Scripture and Personal Interpretation.  However, just as Catholics are called on to prove their position, it follows that those denominations who deny it must prove their own position on the authority to interpret Scripture.


I don't expect this article will lead people to accept one view over another.  Rather, I post this in the hopes that when it comes to comments to articles, people will realize that the issue under dispute is ultimately over the issue of interpretation and not over accusations of "You're ignoring verses x:xx from the Book of Y in the Bible."

One needs to recognize the truth of what Bertrand Russell once said on slanting the language: "I am firm, you are stubborn, they are pig-headed."  Also, the wisdom of GK Chesterton: "It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong."

It is easy to assume one who disagrees with you is wrong.  However, the question which must be asked is, On what basis do you hold you are right?

This is the real dispute between Christians.

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