How can we know that what we believe as Christians is correct? How do we know for sure that the doctrines and dogma of Christianity are what God intended for us? Could there be doctrinal errors in our creeds and interpretations of Scripture?
A non-Catholic commenter recently posited on my re-worded CS Lewis Trilemma
:"When it comes to the church though (made of mortal, non-divine men), we as a body can always get something wrong. In fact we have, MANY times over the last 2000 years. Therefore, there is a fourth element to the argument, which is that we could be mistaken. This goes for any doctrine we may have: we are either correct, mistaken, lying or crazy."
Following this logic, therefore any truths that we currently hold to be self-evident could
be wrong because we could
The church, from the time of the apostles, who unequivocally believed in the sacrifice of the altar (The real presence of Christ being present on the altar) was the same church that wrote the Creed beginning with the doctrine of the Trinity in 325 AD.
The Arian heresy that was threatening to divide the Roman Empire both politically and spiritually, was spreading rapidly. The question of who Jesus really was needed to be authoritatively answered. The end result of this doctrinal conflict was a "white paper" of the early church regarding the nature of God and his Church and was called the Nicean Creed.
This early church not only said that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one in being with the Father, but some other controversial things as well. They believed in baptism for the forgiveness of sins and believed that the Church should be one (undivided) holy(sanctified by God's grace) catholic (universal) and apostolic (a continuous and direct succession from the original apostles).
This same early church about 57 years later sat down at yet another council with much debate, prayer and deliberation to discern which letters and gospels should be included in the Canon of Sacred Scripture. The New Testament we hold in our hands today is the product of this Council of Rome in 382 AD.
In following the logic of my commenter, this current canon of Sacred Scripture could be mistaken since it was given to us from the same church that may have been mistaken regarding its belief in the Sacrifice of the Altar (Eucharist)
Is it possible that this church that was perhaps mistaken about the meaning of Jesus words "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood..." also got it wrong when it spelled out the doctrine of the Trinity? Were they mistaken regarding that statement about worshiping and glorifying the Holy Spirit, since that is not found in theBible? Were they mistaken when they said we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins? Ultimately, following this logic, the basic tenets of our salvation believed for 2000 years could be wrong!
Furthermore, how do we know that our individual church creeds and position statements are not mistaken? What if some of our own personally held interpretations of the Bible are mistaken? This goes for any doctrine we might have.
I really don't think my commenter in his heart of hearts believes that any doctrine we believe could be mistaken, because that would cast him as a theological relativist of which I know he is not. (He is a devout Christian) However, his statement ultimately leads to the conclusion that there is no absolute Truth, because just when you think you have acquired a belief system that "works for you", it could be "mistaken."
The Catholic Church believes as stated in the Catechism that "the Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept."
We trust that Christ started this Church and therefore we do not accept that the truths passed down from Christ to the apostles could possibly be mistaken.The Church, as Sacred Scripture states, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth", faithfully guards "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints". She guards the memory of Christ's words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles' confession of faith.57 As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.
172 Through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father.58 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a witness of this faith, declared:
173 "Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. . . guards [this preaching and faith] with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth."59
174 "For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world. . ."60 The Church's message "is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world."61
175 "We guard with care the faith that we have received from the Church, for without ceasing, under the action of God's Spirit, this deposit of great price, as if in an excellent vessel, is constantly being renewed and causes the very vessel that contains it to be renewed."62Catechism of the Catholic Church