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Maria Nogueira wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a Protestant and I would like to correspond with a priest who won't get offended with my questions. I don't want to waste your time but I don't want to waste my time either. 

Please, let me know if someone is interested in answering my question.

  • Is the Bible the only source of authority for a Christian?

Thank you,

Maria

  { Is the Bible the only source of authority for a Christian? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Maria —

Better than a priest is the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:

I. The Apostolic Tradition

75 "Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 7; cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15.)

In the apostolic preaching. . .

76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

  1. orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit" (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 7)

  2. in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing". (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 7)

. . . continued in apostolic succession

77 "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority."

(Vatican II, Dei Verbum 7 § 2; St. Irenæus, Adv. Hæres. 3,3,1:PG 7/1,848; Harvey,2,9)

Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."

(Vatican II, Dei Verbum 8 § 1)

78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 8 § 1) "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 8 § 3)

79 The Father's self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 8 § 3; cf. Colossians 3:16)

(CCC 80 — 100)

In Brief

96 What Christ entrusted to the apostles, they in turn handed on by their preaching and writing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to all generations, until Christ returns in glory.

97 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

98 "The Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes". (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 8 § 1)

99 Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith, the People of God as a whole never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine Revelation.

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.

 

 

We're not priests (we're knowledgeable lay Catholics), but we won't be offended by your questions.

So to answer your question, no, we do not believe the Bible is the only source of authority for a Christian.

There are two verses Protestants tend to use to claim the Bible is the sole authority.
One is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

There are a few problems with this. Chiefly, Scripture commends to us to obey tradition as well as Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2).

It is the Church which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), not the Bible.

Moreover, it's important to have someone in authority interpret the Scriptures for you. Peter refers to those unlearned and unstable who distort scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The Ethiopian eunuch knew that he could not understand Scripture properly without someone to interpret it (Acts 8:31). So merely having the Scriptures is not enough; one must rightly interpret them.

The other Scripture often brought up is when Jesus condemns the traditions of men, but those who bring up this verse are usually unaware that Jesus endorses Jewish tradition, too.

2 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

(Matthew 23:2-3)

You'll find nothing about Moses' seat in Scripture, because it was a Jewish tradition. Moses' office of resolving religious disputes was carried on after his death as a matter of tradition and lasted to Jesus' day. Jesus here commands them to respect the tradition. Thus, when Jesus was condemning traditions of men, he was really not condemning the concept of tradition per se, but condemning those who invoked it as a means of violating the Commandments.

If you look at Scripture, when it comes to authority, it is clear that authority is not vested in a book (which, after all, has no power to settle concrete disputes between believers who each think they are interpreting it right), but in human beings:

"He who listens to you, listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me."

(Luke 10:16)

"He whom God sends speaks God's word, for God gives the Spirit without limit."

(John 3:34)

"What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you -- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."

(2 Timothy 1:13ff)

In this last verse, the faith is called a deposit, which is held, not in Scripture, but in Timothy's heart. Elsewhere it says, "Earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints"
(Jude 3-4) which is a similar concept.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

(2 Timothy 2:15 RSV)

Rightly handling here I think more literally is rightly dividing which implies an authority to interpret Scripture.

The truth comes, again, not exclusively through the Scriptures (although the Scriptures are an expression of truth), but through the living community:

"But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth"

(John 16:13)

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you"

(John 14:26)

" 'The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,'
declares the Lord. 'As for me, this is my covenant with them,' says the Lord.
'My Spirit, which is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,' says the Lord."

(Isaiah 59:20-21)

The question for Protestants is:

  • Does the Protestant world look like something that has been guided to all truth, with the Spirit teaching all things to it and reminding it of everything Jesus said to his Church, and have the words of Jesus remained in their mouths continuously (and clearly) since Jesus's ascension into Heaven?

  • Do Protestants, despite their reliance on the Scriptures, know the truth with certainty, or is it a matter of:
    "the Spirit says the Bible says this to me, and
    you say the Spirit says that to you, and
    he says the Spirit says something else to him, and
    she says the Spirit says still something else to her"?
  • If the Bible is clear, understandable, and able with the Spirit's help to be infallibly understood by all believers, why don't all Spirit-filled Protestants agree on what God's Word says — why is there so much disagreement?

Here is an earlier answer that may help you:

Finally, a few tracts published by Catholic Answers (not affiliated with us):

Eric

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