Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sometimes The Bible is Hard to Understand

I love the Bible. I spent many hours as a young teen reading, quoting and thinking about the Scriptures. My favorite books were the Psalms because I could relate to David's struggles and his desire to seek after God. Granted, I wasn't running for my life, just trying to get good grades in calculus and figure out how to treat my girlfriend in a godly way in the 1970's. (and trying to figure out where in the Bible it said I had to cut my hair and stop playing the banjo as I was told by my pastor) I know the Holy Spirit of God inspired men to write the letters and stories later compiled as the Bible, but honestly, sometimes it's just plain HARD TO UNDERSTAND!

For example,  let's look at 1 Corinthians15:29? "Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?"
Now that's not clear, plain and straightforward to me, how bout' you? So much for the perspicuity of Scripture.  (Gee, I wonder why that verse never showed up in vacation bible school as memory verse of the week?) There are over 7 separate interpretations of this verse by protestant theologians. Does this verse means we should baptize people "in proxy" as the Mormons believe? Without a final authority to help steer their thinking, you could see why they could come up with that heresy based on a "plain" reading of this Scripture. Even St. Peter said some of Paul's writings were "hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction as they do other Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:16)

 Other people twist Paul's treatise on faith and the law to "prove" that good works have no value in the process of salvation. (Basically ignoring the Gospels and the Book of James) Folks tend to get in trouble reading the Bible when you exclude or ignore some verses/chapters to "proof text" your own novel theory or doctrine. Or when you remove entire books of the Bible that had been part of the sacred canon since the bible was compiled in the late fourth century by the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The same Church that produced the creed some 75 years before which once and for all settled the issue of the Trinity, which was being debated ferociously at the time. But I digress...
So I know am in pretty good company when I say some Scriptures are Hard to Understand.

   A recent combox discussion had a protestant saying : "Whoever has the best reasons and the least number of contradictions" has the right interpretation of scripture."  What he meant to say was; "whoever has an interpretation that agrees with mine or my denomination's, or pastor's is The Right Interpretation." The fact that in Luther's lifetime a book was published called 200 views of the Lord's Supper ("Ducentæ verborum, 'Hoc est corpus meum' interpretationes", Ingolstadt 1577) clearly illustrates that solo scripture is a bogus and unworkable construct and the bible is not, nor was ever meant to be self-interpretive. There is way too much riding on our eternal destiny to leave the interpretation up to ourselves alone.  Our protestant friends have been touting solo scriptura since the 16th century yet cannot agree among themselves what one must do to be saved based on their varied interpretations of their truncated bible. Even more disastrous is that many contemporary protestant churches are now espousing moral decadence using their own private interpretation of scripture. For example, the Presbyterian Church USA, ELCA Lutherans, many Anglicans, are supporting same-sex relationships and even ordaining practicing homosexuals based on their own interpretation of scripture outside any authority other than themselves.

I bring this up to support my ever strengthening belief in the Teaching Magisterium (office) of the Catholic Church. They guard the final interpretation of Scripture so even though we are encouraged by the Church to read and pray with Scripture, we won't be allowed to come up with a new and novel interpretation of a verse by our own "private interpretation." No matter how good it feels, or right it seems, or has the "evangelium"* on it, the Church does not allow me the option of discerning new and interesting doctrine from my own take on the Bible. As a rebellious teen, I berated my Catholic mom for telling me "You're not supposed to intoypet (yes, she said interpret like that in a New Joisey accent) the Bible yourself !"
Now I can really understand what she meant and why. Maybe if Luther listened to his Catholic Mom, we wouldn't be in this fine kettle of fish that we are in (30,000+ protestant sects). Oh well, my Mom has the last laugh now. Who would ever thought I would return to the Church that doesn't allow me to interpret the Bible on my own ?

*Luther's personal test of canonicity. He said the Epistle of Saint James didn't have the "evangelium on it" and was fit to be used to stoke his stove.


Blogger Deborah said...

I like the part about "listening to your Catholic Mom," being one myself that is. ;)

March 08, 2012 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Marta Daniels (@Marta_Daniels) said...

The Bible must be rightly divided and frankly everyone isn't capable of that. The Bible can be dangerous in the wrong hands! But I agree, some parts of the Bible are definitely clearer than others. I thank God for a pastor that has a clear grasp of the Word. God bless!

March 09, 2012 5:57 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Marta: thanks for visiting my blog!
I agree that many don't interpret the bible correctly. Jesus promised to lead us in all Truth, including the interpretation of His Holy Word. So how do you, Marta, decide who to believe if your pastor believes that once saved, always saved, but the spirit-filled believer down the street who reads the same version of scripture tells you his pastor says you can lose your salvation?
How do you know who is right?
Or what if the godly evangelicals down the street say, tongues are not for today? How do we know who is right? How we can we trust that our pastor is rightly dividing the Word?

March 09, 2012 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Renee Lin said...

Interestingly, we have a church in Martinsville, Va which advocates polygamy. Are they old-time Mormon apostates? Nope, just your average Bible-alone Christians who take their Bible-alone theology more seriously than most Protestants. You see, they rightly point out that polygamy is never condemned in Scripture. St. Paul says that bishops can’t be the husband of more than one wife (Titus 1:6, 1 Tim 3:2), but never mentions any prohibition aimed at the average layperson. He says that women can’t have more than one living husband (Rom 7:3, 1 Cor 7:39), thereby ruling out polyandry, but the subject of polygamy, i.e., of a man having more than one wife, is never addressed in the NT. And the Old Testament is a scriptural gold mine for polygamists – Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon were all polygamists. Now, they may not have been happy polygamists, but nowhere does God tell them not to be polygamists. In fact, David was rewarded by God with many wives (2 Samuel 12:8). This “Bible-alone” argument was strong enough to convince none other than Martin Luther, who wrote:

“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture.”

These folks just take their Bible-alone theology more seriously than other Protestant believers. They (as well as those who followed Luther) are grateful for a pastor that has a clear grasp of the Word.

"The Bible can be dangerous in the wrong hands!" Indeed! But who is to say whose hands are the "wrong hands"?

March 10, 2012 3:22 PM  

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