Catholic – Protestant – Scripture Interpretation Part 2
Catholic Apologists and faithful point out that they have a hierarchy that helps decide which interpretation is correct. And, given the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, they further point out that their interpretations on certain passages and doctrines are the right ones. Moreover, that somehow this then protects them from grave error. How should Protestants think along with our Catholic brothers and sisters on this one?
First, I think we should acknowledge that in and of itself there is nothing wrong with a body of Christians deciding what a given passage means. In other words, we should not fault them for making decisions on such matters. Protestant churches often do this as well. They get together, weigh the evidence, and make clear decisions for their churches as to where they stand on certain subject.
Second, we should also point out that the Roman Catholic Church has not really made all that many official ex-cathedra pronouncements. Therefore, even if Catholics can feel settled on some issues, they are not settled on all issues. Take for instance the subject of Evolution. The Catholic Church’s main point is that Christians are free to believe in it or not believe in it. Rather, they are to hold that God did it, whichever means he chose to use. Now, this is something I certainly agree with. However, it does not settle the issue whatsoever, and therefore Catholic faithful are still going to have to wrestle through all the evidence.
Third, I think we point out, once again, that there is much diversity of interpretation among Catholic leaders where the Pope has not spoken Ex Cathedra. Since there is much diversity on numerous issues, we should remember that Catholics still have to do the heavy lifting of Scripture interpretation, without the deciding vote of their Pope. For instance, in Romans 7 and who the “I” is. On Relevant Radio (Catholic Radio), I heard a Catholic Priest expound this passage as if we are all currently the “I” in Romans 7. Namely, that we are the one’s always tempted and always sinning and always regretting our sin. The problem is, historically in the church fathers (and in the Methodist Tradition), as well as with the understanding of ancient Rhetoric, this passage is talking not about the believer, but the unregenerate man, just prior to believing. Therefore, a Priest got this passage incorrect. How had being Catholic protected him from a slightly incorrect reading? To be sure, the Great Augustine as well as many Protestants like Luther, got this passage wrong as well. 😊
Fourth, each Protestant needs to be careful not to bias themselves automatically against something Rome says, just because it came from Rome. And Catholics need not bias themselves against Protestants just because it came from a Protestant. This is a fallacy, and there is much we can learn from our Catholic/Protestant brothers and sisters and their studies of Scripture. Much of the time in Catholic – Protestant discussions, we get so uptight that we just want to win. How about instead, we recognize the limits of each of our groups, and love each other while discussing the differences. Each of our groups, as persons, needs to be open to what Scripture says, not just any one of our positions on Scripture.