For many non-Catholic Christians, the Bible (Scripture) is their only rule of faith. In other words, the Bible contains all a person needs. In this view, the whole of Christian truth can be found in the Bible. There is no need to go to any other source of authority.
Wikipedia defines it like this:
Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, it demands that only those doctrines be admitted or confessed that are found directly within Scripture or are drawn indirectly from it by valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning…Some Evangelical and Baptist denominations state the doctrine of sola Scriptura more strongly: Scripture is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter (“Scripture interprets Scripture”), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine.
The Catholic view on the other hand, the true “rule of faith,” according to the Bible itself, is Scripture plus apostolic Tradition. It is the living teaching authority (Magisterium) of the Catholic Church that was entrusted to give us (hand down) the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.
So, why do we accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God? Where did the Bible come from and who had the authority to put it together? Did it just drop down to earth from heaven? Most people do not even consider these questions, but just take it for granted that the Bible is what it is. Well, if we look to the Bible for answers, we find that there is no “inspired” table of contents. That was put there by the publishers. If we rely on the Bible as bearing witness to itself for being inspired, then we would have to recognise the claim of other writings being inspired from God. For example, the Koran claims to be the inspired Word of God, but do we as Christians accept what it says, just because it says it is? Well, the same goes for the Bible.
Who decided which books were inspired and therefore belonged to the New Testament?
Well, shortly before 400 A. D. a General Council of the Catholic Church, using the infallible authority which Christ had given to His own divine institution, finally decided which books really belonged to the New Testament and which did not. But, before it was put together, there was a lot of disagreement among Christians as to what books actually belonged and was truly considered inspired Scripture. Books such as the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, the Letter of Barnabas, the Acts of Paul, and the Acts of Peter, were thought to be inspired by some, but didn’t make the cut. But, books such as Revelation, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, and others were thought by some , not to be inspired, but they were included.
The Bible that every Christian holds in their hand today, was given to them by the authority of the Catholic Church, whether they know it or not. The Bible is a Catholic book. The Catholic monks; in many cases spent their entire lives to give the world personally-penned copies of the Scriptures, before printing was invented in the 1500’s. Up until then, 90-95 percent of the people were illiterate. So, if someone wanted to know what Scripture said, for the first 1500 years the Church existed, they had to go to Mass. Bibles were so valuable, many Churches had to keep them chained and locked.
If Jesus gave the Catholic Church the authority to put together the inspired Word of God, then wouldn’t it make since that the Church would need to use that same authority to interpret it? “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #85).”
Why are there so many different Protestant denominations today? We now have over 35,000 different Protestant denominations throughout the world and a new one being formed everyday. Most all claim that it is the Bible and only the Bible that is the pillar and mainstay of truth. The question is, what version of the truth do we follow, since the Holy Spirit can not contradict itself?
One of the main reasons we have so many churches is because there is so much different interpretation of the Bible; there is so much different interpretation of the Bible because there is so much wrong interpretation; there is so much wrong interpretation because the system of interpreting is radically wrong. You cannot have one Fold and one Shepherd, one Faith and one Baptism, by allowing every man and every woman to distort and pervert the Scriptures to suit his or her own pet theories.
Is it the Bible that Christians are to consider the pillar of truth, or is it the Church itself? Well, if we look at 1 Timothy, St. Paul says: “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth (3:15).”
Until next time, God bless.