Protestantism and the Bible

The Rule of Faith of the Roman Catholic Church is an ambiguous statement that seems not so much a rule of faith, but a doxology or, perhaps, a creed. As set forth in her Catechism, this rule reads:

292. The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit,[Cf. Ps 33 6 ; Ps 104:30 ; Gen 1:2-3 .] inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church's Rule of Faith: 'There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom', 'by the Son and the Spirit' who, so to speak, are 'his hands'.[St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 2, 30, 9; 4, 20, I: PG 7/1, 822, 1032.] Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.--Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Even in this, it would appear, 'Mother Church,' has corrupted the pure Word of God with the non-biblical writings of those church fathers who are so dear to her as sources of what Rome refers to as Sacred Tradition. Elsewhere in the Catechism, the doctrine of the Trinity is explained, and the biblical relationship of the Three Persons of the Godhead is made clear. However, reading the above statement out of context leaves me with the impression that “the Son and the Spirit” are considered subordinate beings used by Almighty God to carry out His orders, rather like slaves or hired servants.

Compare, if you will, the above declarations with these simple words that begin John's Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.-- John 1:1-3, KJV

Nineteenth century Reformed theologian and educator Charles Hodge stated the Rule of Faith held by Christian non-Catholics in the opening paragraph of Chapter 6 of his Systematic Theology:

All Protestants agree in teaching that “the word of God, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice…Protestants hold (1) that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are therefore infallible, and of divine authority in all things pertaining to faith and practice, and consequently free from all error whether of doctrine, fact, or precept; (2) that they contain all the extant supernatural revelations of God designed to be a rule of faith and practice to His Church; (3) that they are sufficiently perspicuous to be understood by the people, in the use of ordinary means and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, in all things necessary to faith or practice, without the need of any infallible interpreter.--Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Abridged Edition, © 1988, Baker Book House Company, p. 76

The Roman Catholic Church, contrary to what many non-Catholics mistakenly believe, encourages Catholic faithful to read the Scriptures, even offers indulgences to those who do so assiduously. They want Catholics to read the Bible, but discourage those who do to do more than simply read the printed words in the same manner they might read a bus schedule. In fact, sanctions can be levied against those Catholics who dare to attempt to learn the meaning of passages in the Scriptures, as can be shown by these words produced by the bishops present at the 4th Session of the Council of Trent:

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.–J. Waterworth, Ed. and trans., The Council of Trent: The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, 1848, Dolman, pp. 19-20; cf. Denzinger 786

That's Catholicism's approach to 'encouraging' the Catholic faithful to read the Scriptures: They can read 'em, but they'd better not try to understand what they read. Charles Hodge ends the sixth chapter of his Systematic Theology with a set of rules to help ensure that those who study Holy Writ interpret God's Word properly:

Rules of Interpretation

If every man has the right, and is bound to read the Scriptures and to judge for himself what they teach, he must have certain rules to guide him in the exercise of this privilege and duty. These rules are not arbitrary. They are not imposed by human authority. They have no binding force which does not flow from their own intrinsic truth and propriety. They are few and simple.

1. The words of Scripture are to be taken in their plain historical sense. That is, they must be taken in the sense attached to them in the age and by the people to whom they were addressed. This only assumes that the sacred writers were honest, and meant to be understood.

2. If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that mind divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place anything which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture. If a passage admits of different interpretations, that only can be the true one which agrees with what the Bible teaches elsewhere on the same subject. If the Scriptures teach that the Son is the same in substance and equal in power and glory with the Father, then when the Son says, "The Father is greater than I," the superiority must be understood in a manner consistent with this equality. It must refer either to subordination as to the mode of subsistence and operation, or it must be official. A king's son may say, "My father is greater than I," although personally his father's equal. This rule of interpretation is sometimes called the analogy of Scripture, and sometimes the analogy of faith.

3. The Scriptures are to be interpreted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which guidance is to be humbly and earnestly sought. The ground of this rule is twofold: First, the Spirit is promised as a guide and teacher. He was to come to lead the people of God into the knowledge of the truth. And secondly, the Scriptures teach, that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) The unrenewed mind is naturally blind to spiritual truth. His heart is in opposition to the things of God. Congeniality of mind is necessary to the proper apprehension of divine things. As only those who have a moral nature can discern moral truth, so those only who are spiritually minded can truly receive the things of the Spirit.

The fact that all the true people of God in every age and in every part of the Church, in the exercise of their private judgment, in accordance with the simple rules above stated, agree as to the meaning of Scripture in all things necessary either in faith or practice, is a decisive proof of the perspicuity of the Bible, and of the safety of allowing the people the enjoyment of the divine right of private judgment. --Charles Hodge, Op. cit., pp. 94,95

I encourage every believer to spend time in the Scriptures daily.

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