Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Eric Sammons

1/29/2011 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Answering the Question, 'Where is that in the Bible?'

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.

Pope Benedict carries the Book of the Gospels

Pope Benedict carries the Book of the Gospels

Highlights

By Eric Sammons

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/29/2011 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Bible, Tradition, Eric Sammons, Apologetics, Sacred Scripture, Tradition


GAITHERSBURG, MD (Catholic Online) - Recently I was reading a newspaper article in which a prominent Evangelical Christian stated, "Every Christian's core beliefs ultimately rest upon the same foundation: the Bible." 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?" Whether the topic is infant baptism, purgatory, justification by faith alone or the Assumption of Mary, Scriptural support is demanded. And for good reason - after all, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and therefore, if a belief is found in the Bible, then surely it is true.

However, there is a false presupposition lurking behind this question and the statement made by that Evangelical leader, one that is commonly held by Christians today. It is the presupposition that the Bible is the source of Christian doctrine - that the Bible contains all the teachings of the Christian Faith and its purpose is to be a catechism of sorts for our teachings and beliefs. If you read just about any book from your local Family Bookstore (a chain of Protestant Christian bookstores), the language used is soaked with this premise: "The Bible teaches.", "The Bible says.", "we see from the Bible that.". Unfortunately, this foundational tenet of Protestantism is also held by many Catholics.

This presupposition, however, is not only false, it is illogical and contrary to history. Let us take a brief look at salvation history and see how the Christian Faith was passed on to us - what is its source?

1)  After the Fall, God raised up a nation (Israel) to be His people. He sent them prophets, kings and priests to teach them about the ways of God.
2)  At the fullness of time, God sent His Son. This Son, Jesus Christ, preached, did mighty works, and suffered, died and rose again for our salvation.
3)  The followers of Christ, especially the apostles, went about preaching the Gospel to the known world. What is this "Gospel"?  It is the revelation of God centered on the person of Jesus Christ - which includes the preparations for his coming as well as his teachings, mighty works and redemptive death and resurrection.
4)  Some of these followers wrote down this Gospel in letters, histories and "gospels."
5)  The successors to the apostles - the bishops - continued to preach the Gospel handed on to them, guarding and protecting it from error.

The content of our Faith, then - the "Gospel" - was passed on to future generations by two methods: (oral) preaching (Tradition) and writings (Scripture). The college of bishops - the "Magisterium", or teaching office of the Church - continued to preach that Gospel through time, making sure that it was not deformed or altered. But it is important to know the order in which these things flow: the Gospel is the content of the Faith, and oral preaching and writings are the methods by which they are passed on.

An objection might be raised here that the way we know about salvation history is through the Bible, so the Bible is "before" the Gospel. However, this confuses the method in which we receive history with the history itself. One would not think that a book about Socrates is the source of his life and teachings; instead, it simply recounts what we know about him. It is a written means of teaching about who he was.

So if we want to know the source of our beliefs, we must look to the Gospel, which includes the life of ancient Israel and is fulfilled completely in the person of Jesus Christ and his life, teachings, works and redemptive suffering and death. This Gospel was passed on to the apostles, who then passed it on through their preaching and through their writings.

There is one pre-existing Gospel, then, and two methods by which we receive that Gospel, as has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church since its earliest days. In the second century, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Gaul, wrote Against Heresies, which defended the Catholic Faith against the various false teachings of his day. The work is a rather difficult read, but if you are able, read Book III from the Preface through Chapter 3. In that famous section, Irenaeus lays out why the heretics' teachings should not be believed, whereas the Faith proclaimed by the Catholic Church is trustworthy:

1) The Gospel was given to the Church through the apostles (Preface-Chapter 1).
2)  The Gospel was passed on to us through Scripture and Tradition, and the heretics contradict both of these pillars (Chapter 2).
3)  The Gospel, passed on to us through Scripture and Tradition, is defended and protected by the successors to the apostles, the bishops (Chapter 3).
4)  Therefore, if we follow the bishops, especially the bishop of Rome, then we can be assured that we are following the true Gospel (Chapter 3).

The Church today follows this same divine logic. In Dei Verbum, Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, the Church beautifully and clearly articulates the relationship between the Gospel (also called "Revelation"), Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Sections 1-6 discuss Revelation being given from God, and sections 7-9 note the two ways in which that Revelation is handed on to us. Finally section 10 notes the role of the Magisterium in guarding and teaching that deposit of faith.

None of this means, of course, that any part of the Gospel will contradict Scripture, Tradition or the teaching of the Magisterium. The "glue" which holds all these parts together in one unified whole is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the originator of the content of the Gospel, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the guide of Tradition, and the protector from error of the Magisterium. Left to his own devices, man would be unable to sustain consistent teaching for even a few decades, but with the Holy Spirit as its guardian, the Church faithfully passes on the authentic and saving Gospel to all generations.

So when someone asks, "where in the Bible does it say?", you can know that if the Catholic Church teaches it, it is part of the saving Gospel, which precedes the Bible and is the source of its content.

-----

Eric Sammons is the author of the book Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew, published by Our Sunday Visitor in September 2010. Eric, his wife and their five children live in Maryland. You may purchase Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew here

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More Living Faith

You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Baptized Christian Has a Vocation and Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


Friendly overtures to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with mixed response Watch

Image of LCWR presidents welcome the approximately 750 members to the assembly.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR is comprised of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The group represents about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the U.S. However, relations between the ... continue reading


POPE: 'It is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor' Watch

Image of Pope Francis said that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Answering a wide array of questions, which included the proper response to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by fundamentalists of the Islamic State in Iraq, Pope Francis said that "it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor." ... continue reading


POPE IN SOUTH KOREA: 'Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice' Watch

Image of Pope Francis told 200 South Korean government officials that the two Koreas, halved between North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, in his first trip to Asia, addressed South Korean political and civic leaders and encouraged them to stay on a steady course towards social justice and democracy. "Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the Pope said in ... continue reading


Will Suffering, Struggle, Failure and Pain Make us Bitter or Better? Watch

Image of Because of his close communion with Jesus Christ, the Risen One who had called him in the desert, Paul cultivated an interior strength which made it possible for him to walk through the pain, to even embrace the pain, and to experience failure itself as a path to the Cross where he found comfort in the wounded side of Jesus the Savior.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

St. Paul was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Christian. An Apostle, raised up out of the ordinary course, he accomplished great things for the Lord as he eagerly responded to His calling to build the Church and, through her, to help change the world. A ... continue reading


The Assumption: The Virgin Mary goes before us in the Order of Grace Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

What God has promised on the last day for those he loves, he has already accomplished in the Virgin Mary. Let us turn to Mary and love her as our spiritual Mother in the order of grace; let us open our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, that she may illuminate her ... continue reading


The Assumption or Dormition of the Mother of the Lord: What Does It Mean? Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This event is a part of the naturally supernatural  progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her Yes, her Fiat of surrendered love, brought heaven to earth. This exercise of her human freedom, responding to the invitation of God, as sent through ... continue reading


Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Image of Only by following the non-violent Christ can our world that seems so steeped in violence be converted.

By Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States' fault, that is, at least not entirely. The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their ... continue reading


Pope Francis sends greeting to Chinese president en route to South Korean trip Watch

Image of The Pope's South Korean visit marked the first ever papal flight across China.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

On his way to South Korea, Pope Francis bid China a friendly greeting. "Upon entering Chinese air space, I extend best wishes to your Excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation," the Pope said in ... continue reading


Pope Francis Calls for Prayers and Action Watch

Image of

By Joseph J. Klock

In a series of tweets over recent days, Pope Francis has raised an alarm to the international community pleading for us to protect and pray for "all those suffering violence in Iraq," and to live in solidarity with them. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - In a series of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 34:1-11
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
1 [Psalm Of David] Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16
1 'Now the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 20th, 2014 Image

St. Bernard of Clairvaux
August 20: St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church St. Bernard was born ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter