Bembem Chingching [Convert from SDA to Catholic]
Just Me and My Bible?
Growing up I was taught by my church-elder grandfather and my devoutly christian grandmother the great value of living a life guided by Sacred Scriptures. And so there is no question as to whether or not I will lead a life looking up to Scriptures for guidance, strength and encouragement. In the past 5 years, The Bible has led me to profound truths that had I not taken the time to study, I never would have understood the full meaning. This is precisely why I am most grateful for what the Bible teaches as it lead me to the Catholic Faith.
Let’s define it.
The Bible is a collection of books accepted by Christian churches as the authentic, inspired record of the revelations made to mankind by God about himself and his will for men. It is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament to distinguish between the Jewish tradition and the Christian. In the New Testament, the Old is generally spoken of as “the Scriptures” or “the sacred writings” (Matthew 21:42). Gradually the word has been used in the singular and “Scripture” has become a synonym for the Bible (Acts 8:32). “Testament” has the meaning of “covenant” with reference to the two covenants God established with his people in each period of human history.
Why did it make me Catholic?
The History of Early Christianity tells us that Our Lord told the Apostles to communicate the Faith, the truths which must be believed for salvation.
He commanded them, “go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. He said to Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18). And Saint Paul taught clearly that it is the Church that is the pillar and mainstay of truth (I Tim. 3:16).
Our Lord gave to Peter authority, and He commissioned the Apostles to preach in His name. “As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).
Our Lord established a Church to teach in His Name: “He that heareth you heareth Me, he that despiseth you, despiseth Me”(Luke 10:16). “And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican”(Matt. 18:17).
And so even way before the New Testament was written, The Church and the Faith existed. Only five out of the twelve Apostles wrote about what they lived through. But despite this, the community of believers lead by The Church was teaching and administering the Sacraments, the Apostles were forgiving sins, the Church was making martyrs for seven to ten years before written work for the New Testament began.
The Church was spread throughout the entire Roman Empire before a single word of the New Testament was written. There were Catholic saints and martyrs before we had Gospels and Epistles. They were Catholics because there was only One Church. Catholic comes from the Greek word “katholos” meaning Universal or the whole or United Church. From Jesus, he passed on the responsibility of leading the whole Church to Peter which was the first Bishop (seated in Rome) who also passed on this responsibility to the next Bishop, Linus, who also later passed it on to, Anacletus, then St Clement I and so on, up to the present time, and is now in the hands of Pope Francis.
The Beauty of the Bible.
The first Gospel was written by Saint Matthew, about 7 years after Our Lord left the earth. The next was the Gospel of Mark, written 10 years after Christ ascended into Heaven. The Gospel of Saint Luke was written 25 years after Our Lord’s Ascension, and the Gospel of John was written 63 years after Our Lord left the earth. The Apocalypse was written a good 65 years after the Ascension of Our Lord. And all of this was written, as Pope Leo XIII reiterates, under Divine inspiration.
For over three hundred years, the Church did not have all the books of the Bible compiled into one book.
And this brings us right to the question of Authority.
The leaders of the community of believers (the Whole Church), which God Himself gave the authority to teach: to teach in His Name, to teach infallibly, must Give the Authority that the books written about Jesus and His Teachings are truly the infallible Word of God.
And it was the “katholos”, the Catholic Church, at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D., through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that settled once and for all what was the Canon of the New Testament; that decided which books were divinely inspired and which were not, as there were several erroneously written accounts on the life and teachings of Jesus at that time.
It was the Catholic Church that put the New Testament together, joined it to the Old Testament, and gave the Bible to the world. It was the Catholic Church that produced the Bible, it was not the Bible that produced the Church.
Just Me and My Bible? Unfortunately, this is historically inaccurate.
We’ve only had Bibles widely distributed for a little more than 400 years. So what about the millions of Christians who lived before that, who would go through their entire lives and never even see a Bible or a printed text of the New Testament?
The books of the New Testament were not written until 65 years after Our Lord left the earth. And we saw that the Christian World did not even have a complete, compiled Bible until the year 397 A.D.; and were not even available for mass distribution until the middle of the 15th Century. So the principle of the “Bible Alone” or the Just Me and My Bible principle, cannot stand.
If I didn’t have the Authority of the Catholic Church guiding me as to how to properly understand scriptures, I can make personal interpretations and perhaps build my own church, which is exactly what happened throughout history. The whole Church has been divided because of personal interpretations.
Just Me and My Bible? Truthfully, this principle is contrary to Scripture, neither is it supported by history, and is contrary to reason; for it ends up in thousands of conflicting interpretations of Scripture, and is contrary to what Our Lord established His Church to be – as One.
I keep repeating the whole Church, the United Church, the Universal Church… I will let the Bible answer why…
The “Church” defined in the Bible was to be “one body” — and not only a human body, but a Divine Body — the Mystical Body of Christ Himself.
“Again, He is the head of His body, the Church.” (Colossians 1:18)
“.Now you are the body of Christ, member for member.” (I Corinthians 12:27)
“We are members of His body, made from His flesh and His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30)
The Bible says, the Church was not to be a disjointed body, but a unified body.
“There shall be one fold and one shepherd.”(John 10:16)
“And the glory that thou, Father, hast given Me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one.” (John 17:22)
“You were called in one body … one spirit … one hope … One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.” (Ephesians 4:4-5)
The Church — was to be constituted as one: one in membership, one in belief, one in worship, one in government.
The Church is to be a teaching Church. And not only that, but an infallible teaching Church:
Jesus said, “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:18-20)
Our Lord pledged a divine protection to that teaching authority:
“These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you. When the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, He will bear witness concerning Me, because from the beginning you are with Me.”
(John 14:25-26 and 15:26-27)
I Timothy 3:15 says:
But, if I am delayed, you should know the manner in which it is necessary to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is The Church of the living God, the Pillar and the Foundation of truth.
Given all these, I can deduce that The Church, Its Traditions and The Bible all Work Together to form a Solid Foundation of Our Catholic Faith.
The Catholic Church, vested with the infallible authority given it by Our Lord gave us the Bible. And Our Lord’s Teachings were passed on through Tradition since in the early stages of our Catholic Faith there was still no printing press to massively distribute the Bible. And it is only through the Authority of the Catholic Church that we know for certain that the Bible is truly the Word of God. This is why the great Saint Augustine, in the Fourth Century, said: “I would not believe the Gospel itself, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.”
So, how do we use the Bible?
II Timothy, 3:16 says that All Scripture, inspired by God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, instruct in justice.
And what of Tradition?
In Matthew 15 Our Lord was not condemning all Tradition, but only the corrupt tradition of the Pharisees.”
In II Thessalonians 2:14 Saint Paul instructs us to stand fast and “hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.”
Hence, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I have come home to the Catholic Church with the help of My Bible. I thank the Bible for bringing me Home to The Church and I thank The Church for giving me The Bible which brought me Home to The Church. Everything has come to its fullness.
In the end, it’s Not Just Me and My Bible.
It’s Now Me, the Catholic Bible, the Catholic Traditions, the Catholic Teaching Authority ALL WORKING AS ONE TO FORM MY FAITH AND HELP ME PUT MY LOVE FOR GOD IN ACTION. Afterall, GOD IS LOVE.
*With some Excerpts from Paul Whitcomb’s The Bible Made a Catholic out of Me and The Sole Rule of Faith by John Venarri