Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Using Scripture to Teach, Refute, Correct, and Train

 An Evangelical Protestant friend of mine once told me that anyone can read Scripture and learn for themselves what it says.  In other words, anyone can interpret Scripture in whatever way he wants.  This friend cited the following passage from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy in support of his statement (2 Timothy 3:16):  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness .… .”  I’m thinking about this today because the second reading from last Sunday’s Holy Mass included this passage.  It is a problem because often someone will cite a single verse from Scripture and make his/her personal claim as to what it says and not consider the context.  My friend was contesting multiple statements from me that implied that there must be a respected authority so that error is not communicated when someone “teaches,” “refutes,” “corrects,” or “trains in righteousness.”  

My position is that the Catholic Church is that authority, which was something he did not want to hear.  I said that individuals may interpret Scripture to suit a particular false agenda.  He responded saying that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to provide a “true” agenda, saying that the Catholic Church has an agenda created by its hierarchy and that their members follow its teachings like robots.  I followed this by saying that Jesus founded the Catholic Church and that the agenda is therefore God’s agenda and that I am happy to be His robot.  Jesus said “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This, we believe, is enough to believe in this Catholic authority.

A case in point is the Bread of Life discourse in John’s Gospel, Chapter 6.  The Catholic Church interprets this chapter to say that the Eucharist in the Catholic Church is literally the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.  The Catholic Church is the only religion that believes this.  Others say that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He said “This is my body.” (referring to the bread at the Last Supper) and “This is my blood.” (referring to the wine).  But a careful read of the entire chapter is quite convincing that the Catholic teaching is the correct one.  It has been the Catholic teaching from the beginning, and it has been affirmed by St. Paul.  (See 1 Cor 11:23-29.)

So, is Scripture inspired by God?  Yes.  Is Scripture useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness?  Absolutely!  But, since the Reformation, this comes with a caveat … that the interpretation of Scripture must be derived from the proper authority, i.e., that it be the correct interpretation.  It cannot be an interpretation that is derived from an individual’s personal claim because that can only lead to confusion and argument.  Christ would not have wanted that.

The photo depicts Christ instructing his disciples about the kingdom of God.

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