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Catholics and the Bible: Is the Bible the Only Source of Christian Beliefs? Comments

Over the last 25 years I've had more debates than I can count with Christians of various denominations. These conversations varied as widely as the perspectives of the different people I debated, but nearly every one eventually included the question: "Where is that in the Bible?" Why "sola scriptura" falls short and misses the mark. Continue Reading

1 - 10 of 67 Comments

  1. Jon
    4 years ago

    I have to say this article and this thread are the real reason I am on this site. Thanks to all of you for your such thought provoking dialog. I think it's also worthy to mention that the amount of respect displayed by all those involved should be an inspiration and example to any and all apologists. Thank you and may God bless!

  2. Pete Brady
    4 years ago

    Mike FP: Amen.

  3. Mike FP
    4 years ago

    JEANCATHERINE, PETER BRADY AND ARISTOTLE: Well, if I've crossed the line at some point beyond challenging what's being said in this forum and made any of you feel that you were being challenged for who you are, please accept my sincere apologies. Peter, I'd be interested in "knowing" more about the specific meaning of the word "know" as it's used in that passage from the catechism. I recall it well from the era of catechisms with disturbing abstract art. I suspect it's meant in a slightly less technical manner than I was using here. But I could certainly be wrong. The point I have been trying to raise has more to do with how we believe what we believe rather than what we specifically believe. A good Catholic term for it would be that we dwell in a "cloud of unknowing," to steal the title from that great medieval work. Or, if you prefer, St. Paul's phrase about seeing through a glass darkly. I mean, if that's how things looked to someone like St. Paul, then maybe an argument that says many of us dwell in a cloud of false -- often unconcious --certainty isn't so far off the mark. Now, of course, you can argue that this kind of thinking can lead to immobility, but I don't think so. Making choices is an unavoidable feature of conciousness (a point made by St. Augustine well before Sartre popularized it.) So what do you do if you must make choices -- must act -- with imperfect knowledge? Well, it seems to me you have to make some kind of leap of faith. My point is that we might all be a bit better off if we allowed ourselves to be more conscious of this ever-present cloud of unknowing. My issue is with the use of scripture as a means of avoiding acknowledging this existential reality of uncertainty. Sometimes the scriptural support is quite clear -- take the Resurrection, for example. Sometimes it is tenuous, as in the case of Purgatory. So why pretend that this is not the case? I mean, the Church is comfortable with calling many basic tenets of our faith "mysteries." Why shouldn't we be willing to acknowledge uncertaintly as well? In fact, I would suggest that the willingness to acknowledge a certain level of uncertainty is a necessary part of having faith (i.e. if there's no uncertainty, then it's not a belief now, is it?) I think this is particularly important not only for authenticity, but to avoid excess -- including violence -- and also to avoid fixating on secondary matters. Take the whole heliocentrism controversy that I raised earlier. Recognizing that the "Galileo and the Church" narrative is generally told in an inaccurate manner that shows a serious anti-Catholic bias, the fact is that one of the concerns raised had to do with the story of God causing the sun to stand still in order to benefit the Israelites in some battle. How could that be if the sun doesn't revolve around the earth, was the question. I think a lot of energy could be saved -- and a lot less blood spilled -- in situations like that if we all just shrugged it off as an irrelevant detail. How an omnipotent God works out details like that is not really important. I mean, really, what crucial article of faith was at stake there? And how much fodder does that controversy still provide for those who oppose the Church? There are obviously more recent instances of this kind of thing. But I think it is sometimes useful to use a distant example because its less likely to cause emotion to cloud the view. We are supposed to examine our consciences. It seems to me that we should give what we believe similar scrutiny.

  4. Aristotle
    4 years ago

    I’m Catholic and I can understand Mike FP’s questioning. Catholicism demands a lot of its adherents. However I do think both Jean Catherine and Pete are a little too strident in their 'defence of the faith'.

    It is a good thing that Mike takes a strong intellectual approach to Catholicism - this after all is what the early doctors of the Church did and how they came to their conclusions. That is to say they married both faith and reason to formulate the New Testament. They did not, from all accounts, shy away from long running and heated debate about theological issues. It is a good thing as long as your own faith doesn’t revert to a merely intellectual pursuit that is...

    Catholics must be able to accept criticism. If not they run the risk of being regarded intolerant. We know (or strongly believe if you wish) that we’ve got it right even if others don’t. We should also defend our beliefs.

    Probably the simplest way I could put all the debate about sola scriptura, Magisterium and Sacred Tradition is this: Jesus himself made 4 promises before his ascension:

    1. That Peter would be the authority for the Church of Christ.
    2. That WHATEVER he bound or loosed would also be so considered in Heaven.
    3. That the Spirit (of God) would arrive to guide the Church in its decision-making.
    4. That Satan would not ultimately prevail against the Church (though he gives it a thorough testing).

    That said, God as the omniscient being cannot be wrong.

    Logically speaking, if it is His spirit which guided and continues to guide the Church’s mortal bishops in matters of faith and morality reflected in doctrines and sacred tradition, then neither can the Catholic Church be wrong in regard to those matters.

    I hope this helps.

  5. Pete Brady
    4 years ago

    Mike FP: I think what you present here in the way of "reason" is much needed. It reminds me of the approach that Pope Benedict has taken, and has also been criticized over. That said let me get a couple of other things out of the way. First, I apologize if you thought I was engaging in an "ad hominem" attack by referencing the early heresies in the Church. That was not my intention; I do not see you as being heretical. Your approach I find wholly Catholic. Second, I'm not sure where you saw the "small glimmer of hostility" in my posts. It would be appropriate to apologize for it but I'm not sure that I can based on my being unaware of being hostile. Third, I agree with you as far as an "argument not worth pursuing." After I had posted, I read my comment and asked myself why I had gone on. I can only say that one thing led to another, with the result that it was the "fairly substantial post" that you pointed out. I think what you point out as a necessary distinction between "knowing" and "believing very strongly" is valid. How then to "know" in the catechetical sense of the purpose of our lives to "know, love, and serve God?" Not everyone is capable of going the distance to reason through these things as you do. For some the most they are capable of doing is "anchoring" themselves to a belief; they are strongly prompted to it. Is it "fear" or "love?" One would hope that a belief in God would prompt graces that move the believing person more to love than fear. I, too, believe in the "Truth." I have not been afraid to engage others about what the Church teaches precisely because Christ is the "Truth." You consider the "troubling notion of eternal damnation;" and I, without much teaching of the Church to back it up, hope that God in His infinite Mercy gives each of us one last chance in the last scintilla of our mortal breath to express our love, our desire to be with Him, and that He in that Mercy forgives us all our trespasses, and allows us after some purgatorial time to be with Him forever in Heaven. I look to the conversion of St. Dismas, the Good Thief, as evidence for this hope. Lastly, Mike, you might consider cutting JeanCatherine a little slack, she seems like a very giving person genuinely trying to adhere to her Catholicity in the best way she knows how. And she did get the impression as I alluded might happen that someone might not see the "faith" in your responses. I see your faith, I see the approach you're taking, the "reason" in it; but it doesn't always come across as such on first impression, is all I'm saying. Reasonable enough? :)

  6. JeanCatherine
    4 years ago

    Mike FP

    Actually Mike this is what Catholics are doing as well as myself. Reading books to understand their faith better. In my ignorance of the faith up until a few years ago I was pro-choice sinful woman. Im recommending things as to how I came to the faith through a very Christian woman. You dont sound like a Catholic to be quite frank. You act out as if your an agnostic and I say this without antagonism. You seem to feel insulted by what I said and I apologize but Im not trying to sound superior to you or anyone here.

    Frankly Mike Im only going to say if I hurt you in some way Im sorry but you do come off as acting more superior and arrogant than some of us. God Bless anyhow. Like I said please forgive me if I said something that offended you. Im not offended quite frankly what you said was interesting and somewhat funny to me because you dont know me and I dont know you.

    Lets let this go because it is getting to be close to argument and I dont argue with my fellow Christians.

    Actually Mike our Lady did say there were some bad books around today.

    Im not judging either one who was burnt at the stake. Im just saying that the mindset of the times was different than now and that people werent that educated so things got done badly as we think of it today. Mike you are angry and Im sorry for that. I do love our Lady as well and you take care.

  7. Mike FP
    4 years ago

    JEANCATHERINE: One last point concerning your question/observation: "Do you think that the mindset of the times was a good reason to bring a greater good out of such evil? I think so." The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs rather clearly that one should never seek to do good by doing evil. Now, the Almighty -- by definition -- is not bound by such rules. But I would suspect that any evil inherent in those acts arose from human will. Of course, I'm willing to assume that those that burnt those two were acting in good (fear)based faith. So I do not think it is fair -- or prudent -- for us to judge them and their actions as evil or good. I do not believe that is something we can know.

  8. Mike FP
    4 years ago

    JEANCATHERINE: Gasp! Such sturm und drang! Perhaps a different tack is needed. Maybe using scriptural references is what's needed to get the point across. Consider good old Gamaliel (Acts 5) and the council he attended. Some at the council advocated executing the Apostles. They represent the kind of fear-based faith I'm talking about. Their response to what didn't fit their way of thinking was to try to lash out and destroy it (see also: Saul of Tarsus and St. Stephen). Gamaliel, on the other hand, could be said to represent the kind of confident, loved based faith I am arguing for. You may notice that he does not feel the need to fish around for scriptural references to justify his beliefs. He used his common sense, his reason. Now, to zoom up to the present day. I have made the "outrageous" statement that I believe in Purgatory but don't think the Scripture-based arguments for it are very good and that a number of arguments based on reason and some of the basic articles of our faith are much better. Look how you have responded -- and I really do mean this in a friendly Christian spirit. You have attempted to offer psychologizations (I have "problems" with the Church), questioned whether I am really what I say I am (a Catholic), flung an astonishing number of questions of a personal nature, repeated a vast number of personal credos of your own, and suggested I read an astonishing amount of material. You have even gone so far as to recommend that I read books about people's visions of Purgatory -- something even visionaries such John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila caution people from doing. What you have not done is address the central question. If you feel that the approach I am suggesting has some fatal flaw in it, address it. Explain why -- with regard to an important issue with little basis in Scripture, such as Purgatory -- developing one's belief using basic articles of faith and reason represents an inferior approach. If you are afraid to do so, fine. But don't bury it under a shower of questions, book titles, literary references and -- in the case of reading accounts of visions -- simply bad advice. I would say I will pray for you but, some time ago, I decided to offer all my prayers to Our Lady and let Her dispose of these things.

  9. JeanCatherine
    4 years ago


    You are in my prayers always. God Bless.

  10. JeanCatherine
    4 years ago


    We simply talk and comment about Jesus Christ here we hope.

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