“He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day“.John 6:55
“Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” John 6:54
If it is a matter of indifference what a man believes, assuming he is a “decent person” then it was absolutely useless for God to make any revelation. If someone is free to reject what God reveals, what purpose was it for Christ to send forth His Apostles and disciples to teach all nations, if those nations can freely believe whatever they desire? This would be insulting to the very nature of God. If God makes a point to reveal something through Divine Revelation (by miracle or prophecy) He wants it to be believed. Mankind is bound by his conscience among other things, to believe what God has revealed. Man is also bound to worship God with his reason and intellect along with his heart and will. God owns everything He has given us, we are only stewards of these gifts in our lives and are to use them for His glory alone and not ours. There should be no man and certainly not a Christian who rightly asserts that we are not bound to believe what God has has revealed and taught. This religious indifferentism (more in a later writing), is heretical to everything Christ has put before us as our God, and is a rejection of the one true religion revealed by Him.
True Faith as stated by the majority of Protestants, is to believe in the Lord Jesus. Catholics agree with this as well, they share the belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and that we must believe all that He has revealed and taught us to have True Faith. Without which, there is no salvation, no hope of Heaven, and eternal damnation as we have Jesus’ own words for it. If Jesus under that pains of Hell commands me to believe what He has taught, then He must provide a means in which to learn and understand His teachings. This has to be a means that is present at all times, through all ages, and to every type of person smart or ignorant, all over the world. This means must teach without error, because if it did not, it would surely not be a means for salvation at all. Both Catholics and Protestants state that Christ has provided such a means, but where they differ is the means in and of itself. Protestants state it is the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, while Catholics state it is the Church of the Living God.
Suppose God had intended for mankind to learn His religion from a book. Would not have Jesus given us all books? Perhaps, He would have instructed His Apostles to “write Bibles and give them to everyone so they can figure out what works best for their salvation.” Instead Christ said, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” If Christ had stated the former, there would have been no Christianity, just confusion. As we can see from history however, THAT did not start happening until the 16th century. Ever since then, religion after religion, and church after church popped up all fighting against each other due to private interpretations of the Bible.
Christ never even gave His Apostles the command to write anything down. They went forth and preached everywhere, planted the Church of God throughout the earth, never writing during Our Lord’s time on Earth.
1.) St. Matthew – wrote about 7 years after Christ left the Earth for the benefit of a few people. So there was a Church that had already existed for 7 years prior to that.
2.) St. Mark – wrote about 10 years after Christ.
3.) St. Luke – wrote about 25 years after Christ.
4.) St. John – wrote about 63 years after Christ. And he wrote the last portion of what is in the Bible, the Book of Revalation, about 65 years after Christ. So the Catholic (comes from Hebrew “Catholo” or universal), Church had existed for 65 years prior to this point.
If anyone during anytime was to be considered Christian, it was these direct followers of Jesus Christ Himself. They were the pillars on which Christ built His Church. How were they suppose to know how to achieve salvation if they were in the process of writing parts of the Bible? Would Jesus have left His Church 65 years without a teacher if the Bible is suppose to be that? The answer is no, God would not do that. Out of these men, maybe St. John read the Bible, but no other did, everyone of them died martyrs and heroes for the Church of Jesus Christ. They knew how to save their souls just as true Catholics do today, from the teachings of the Church of God.
For over 300 years the Church that Christ established at the Last Supper spread itself all over the world without the Bible. No one even knew what books constituted the Bible at this time. During the time of the Apostles many false gospels and epistles were being spread. Gospels such as Simon, Nicodemus, of Mary, of Barnabus, and the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus were all being spread amongst people who had no way of knowing which were truly inspired and which were false. Even those more learned disputed their validity.
In the 4th century the Pope of Rome, Head of the Church, succesor of St. Peter, brought together all the Bishops of the world into a council. The decision was made to decide which books constituted the Bible which is how we Catholics have it now. The Gospels that did not display sufficient evidence of Divine Inspiration from the Holy Ghost were rejected. Until this point in history the Bible was unknown to the whole world. There was no Bible to guide anyone. It is impossible to believe that Christ would leave the human race without a book for salvation if that was His intended means to learn His religion. And not just for 300 years was the Christian world left without the Bible but for over 1400 years!
The printing press was invented in the middle of the 1400s, about 100 years before there was a Protestant in the world. Before the printing press was invented, Bibles were rare and costly things. Historians will tell you that only about 1,000 years ago, Bibles were so rare and costly that it took a fortune for one to buy himself a copy. Everything had to be written by hand with pen, upon parchment or sheepskin. It was very tedious, slow, and costly. Historians also state that it took approximately 20 years to hand copy a Bible, if someone were paid even just a dollar a day that would amount $8,000. With todays standards of minimum wage that would be well over $300,000! How could people afford such a thing so necessary to the salvation of their souls? Before printing it is estimated that not even 1 in 20,000 people owned a copy of the Bible. Why would Jesus make it so hard for men if He intended for the Bible to be the end all be all for eternal salvation?
Supposing that every person did have a Bible, what good would it do those who could not read? As the Bible was also written in Greek or Hebrew, what good would it do for someone who could not understand these languages? Even as today it is translated into English, French, and many other languages; how are we to know whether or not these translations are faithful to the original text? If they are not, then it is no longer the Word of God but a false translation. Most people have to depend on the opinions of the learned. But if learned opinions vary and often contradict one another on how the Word of God is to be translated, than who is correct? There are a great number of Protestant layman, preachers, and bishops, who have written whole volumes on errors contained in different versions, the King James Version alone is said to have over 30,000 errors. How can one be so sure of eternal salvation with 30,000 errors?
Assuming the problem of unfaithful translations is completely out of the picture, and everyone had enough money to procure faithful translations of the Word of God for use in private interpretation; who’s interpretation is correct? How are you to save your soul if you hesitate and doubt certain people’s interpretation of Scripture? Throughout the world there are over 350 different denominations or churches that all state the Bible is their guide and teacher. However, just as truth is one, God is one, there can be no contradiction. Protestants state that the man who reads the Bible right and prayerfully has truth, and they all say they read it right.
Let us suppose there is an Episcopal minister. He is a sincere, honest,, well-meaning and prayerful man. He reads his Bible in prayerful spirit, and from the word of the Bible, he concludes that it is clear there must be Bishops. For without Bishops there can be no priests, without priests no Sacraments, and without Sacraments no Church. The Presbyterian is a sincere and well-meaning man. He reads the Bible also, and deduces that there should be no bishops, but only presbyters. “Here is the Bible to give you the lie,” says the Presbyterian. Yet both of them are prayerful and well-meaning men.
Then the Baptist comes in. He is a well-meaning, honest man, and prayerful also. “Well,” says the Baptist, “have you ever been baptized?” “I was,” says the Episcopalian, “when I was a baby.” “And so was I,” says the Presbyterian, “when I was a baby.” “But,” says the Baptist, “you are going to Hell as sure as you live.”
Next comes the Unitatrian, well-meaning, honest, and sincere. “Well,” says the Unitarian, “allow me to tell you that you are a pack of idolators. You worship a man for a God who is no God at all.” And he gives several texts from the Bible to prove it, while the others are stopping their ears that they may not hear the blasphemies of the Unitarian. And all of them contend that they have the true version of the Bible.
Next comes the Methodist, and he says, “My friends, have you got any religion at all?” “Of course we have,” they say. “Did you ever feel religion,” says the Methodist, “the spirit of God moving within you?” “Nonsense,” says the Presbyterian, “we are guided by our reason and judgement.” “Well,” says the Methodist, “if you have never felt religion, you never had it, and will go to Hell for eternity.”
The Universalist next comes in, and hears them threatening one another with external hellfire. “Why,” says he, “you are a strange set of people. Do you not understand the Word of God? There is no Hell at all. That idea is good enough to scare old women and children,” and he proves it from the Bible.
And now comes in the Quaker. He urges them not to quarrel, and advises that they do not baptize at all. He is the sincerest of men, and gives the Bible for his faith.
Another comes in and says, “Baptize the men and leave the women alone. For the Bible says, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. “So,” says he, “the women are all right, but baptize the men.”
Next comes in the Shaker and he says, “You are presumptuous people. Do you know that the Bible tells you that you must work out your salvation in fear and trembling, and you do not tremble at all. My brethren, if you want to go to Heaven shake, my brethren, shake!”
So in this scenario we see seven or eight different denominations, all differing from each other as to what is essential for salvation. All using whatever version of the Bible, illustrative private interpretation to justify their reasoning, and opinions. What if one were to bring over 350 different denominations that exist in the world? All taking the Bible as their guide and teacher, and all differing from each other. Are they all right? Some believe in Hell, some do not. Some believe Christ is God, others do not. Some believe Baptism is essential, some do not. All cannot be true.
Who, then, is correct? He who has the true meaning of the Bible? The Bible never tells us who holds the true meaning, it never settles that quarrel because it is not the teacher. The Bible is a good book, we Catholics admit the Bible is the inspired word of God (Jesus being the actual Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us), the language of inspiration, but your explanation of the Bible is not the language of inspiration. Your understanding of the Bible is not inspired, for surely you do not pretend to inspired!
When the Constitution in the United States was established George Washington did not say, “Let every man read the Constitution and make a government unto himself. Let every man make his own explanation of the Constitution.” If Washington had done that, there would have never been a United States, it would have been a Divided States. Instead the Constitution along with Supreme Law, was given to the American people. A Supreme Court and Judges were appointed to provide the true explanation of the Constitution for everyone from President to homeless Veteran. In fact its a three tier check and balance system (3 is a good number, remanant of The Blessed Trinity), if anyone takes the Constitution and laws into their own hands and are not kept in check, anarchy ensues.
Every government is of this way, a Constitution and a Supreme Court or Judge that gives the meaning of this Constitution. Someone visible that you can go to, lay complaints or questions before. Our Divine Lord established His Supreme Court, His Supreme Judge, “Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) It gives us the true meaning of Scriptures, The Son of the Living God has pledged His Word that His Court is infallible, and therefore, the TRUE Catholic never doubts.
“I believe,” says the Catholic, “because the Church teaches me so. I believe the Church because God commanded me to believe her.” Jesus said: “Tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.” (Matthew 18:17) “He that believeth you believeth Me. He that despiseth you despiseth Me.” (Luke 10:) Sadly everyone despises the Church nowadays and there has always been great adversity towards it. The Catholic believes because God has spoken, and upon the authority of God.
Protestants say, “We believe in the Bible.” They understand it to the best of their opinions as those who came before them (most broke off from the Church for some personal gain), and use private interpretation. This is only a testimony of man, therefore it is only human faith, not Divine Faith or taking God’s Word for something. It is Divine Faith alone by which we give honor and glory to God, by which we adore His infinte wisdom and veracity. That adoration and worship is necessary for salvation.
God Bless, BJS
Parts of this blog were taken, adapted, and abridged from a sermon given by Fr. Arnold Damen, S.J. (1815-1890)