Reason and Scripture Have Wax Noses: The Need For the Teaching Office of the Church
The Gospels tell us that, in distinction to the teachers of the Mosaic law, Jesus taught with infallibility, or, as the Gospels put it, "as one who had authority." Jesus did not teach with the wax noses of the scribes and teachers of the Mosaic law. (Matt. 7:29) From a physical perspective, Christ's infallibility, his teaching authority, however, would leave us once he ascended into heaven.
The Lord therefore knew that, after His ascension, we would be in need of something else, something other than wax-nosed reason and wax-nosed scripture if we were to know the words of eternal life. And He generously provided to us His children by assuring that His authority, and His infallibility, would remain on earth even after His ascension into heaven.
Jesus told His apostles: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." (John 14:16-18; 26).
It is the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church promised by our Lord that is our remedy for the wax nose of reason and the wax nose of Scripture.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this gift: "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome." [CCC § 85]
This gift given to us by Jesus is what we call the Magisterium, a term derived from the Latin magister, or teacher.
Under certain circumstances, the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church enjoys, as a result of the promise of Christ himself, the charism or gift of infallibility. When exercised, the infallibility of the Church's teaching office provides certainty in matters of faith, matters of speculative reason that relate to the faith, or matters of practical reason that relate to the moral law.
"The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism [the word charism comes from Greek charisma, meaning a "gift" of God] of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed." [CCC § 2035]
"The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God." [CCC § 2036]
Thanks be to God for the charism, the gift, of the Magisterium. It is what assures that our reason and our Scriptures do not have wax noses.
In the examples given above, the Magisterium, of course, has plainly taught us that abortion is an intrinsic evil, for example in Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium vitae. It has taught that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil as, for example, in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Homosexualitatis problema.
Without the gift of the Magisterium, our salvation would be founded on wax noses--either our own or someone else's whose decisions we decided to follow--and it is inconceivable that a good God, Who promised He would not leave us orphans, would have left us floundering so when our salvation was at stake.
Because of this great gift of the Church's Magisterium, we can know with the certainty of faith, that Oderberg is right and Jarvis wrong, that Bishop Spong is wrong and Joe Dallas right.
Because of the gift of the Magisterium, we can understand what St. Peter said many years ago: "We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Pet. 1:19-20)
The assurance of truth--in faith, in reason, and in the natural moral law and its requirements--that the first Christians had after Pentecost and expressed by St. Peter in his epistle, is the same assurance that should burn in our hearts as we labor in the fields of this country, a great part of which is in partibus infdelium, to spread the good news of the Gospel in what has been called the New Evangelization.
In taking the message of the Gospel to unbelievers, we have the certainty of the Magisterium behind us, and not a one of us--if we are faithful to the teaching authority of the Church--will ever be found to have wax noses.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Magisterium, teaching authority, wax nose, reason, faith, scripture
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Living Faith News
- An Anatomy of Christian Joy: 'Be, Jesus, Our Joy!'
- In Imitation of St. Joseph, Model of Fathers of Families
- Fathers Are Guardians of the Family
- Pope Francis: Freedom Means Always Choosing the Good; A Challenge in Today's World
- Pope Francis attracts record breaking number of Twitter followers en Espanol
- Meet these senators who are unafraid to talk about their faith
- 'Lady' the black labrador survives after being shot 100 times with a BB gun
- HARROWING ORDEAL: Nigerian man survives boat capsize in air bubble
- Pope Francis Refers to 'gay lobby' inside Vatican
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?