Reading 2 Eph 5:8-14
Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
Verse Before the Gospel Jn 8:12
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Gospel Jn 9:1-41
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see…
There are many versions of this song available on Youtube. I picked that one because the people look so full of light and happy!
It seems that I do receive a lot of signal graces from the Lord. I wonder if it’s because He knows how hard it is for me to believe that He is absolutely committed to me.
It occurs to me that parenthood confers a type of authority that is analogous to a magisterium. I looked at a few different definitions of the word, and they all said something along this line:
The authority of the church to teach religious truth.
Some of them specifically mentioned the Catholic Church. Others provided an etymology that indicated that the word comes to us from the Latin magister (ma-ji-stare), which means master.
It is not a stretch to say that parents have authority to teach religious truth to their own children. Who else is going to teach it? Who else should teach it? Should parents just wait for religious leaders to teach religious truth to their children? I think all Christians of good will can see that this would be a bad idea, even a dereliction of duty.
From the beginning, the Church was formed from believers “and their whole household.” New believers wanted their family to be saved (Acts 18:8).
In our modern world (often hostile to religion), religious families are extremely important centers of living faith. They are “domestic churches” in which the parents are the first heralds of faith (Second Vatican Council). In the home, father, mother, and children exercise their baptismal priesthood in a privileged way. The home is the first school of the Christian life where all learn love, repeated forgiveness, and prayerful worship.
The Christian family IS a church, the smallest and most vital cell of that Body. The extended church community is a family of families. This understanding is more than piety–it is sound ecclesiology, solid anthropology, in fact it is reality for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus…
There is almost a liturgical sameness to the pattern that emerges after so many years- by practice, developed spiritual purpose, and just plain ordinary human repetition. But it can all become transforming when lived out “in Christ”. It is here, where the “rubber hits the road” for most Christians. It is here that the universal call to holiness, in all its real, earthy, incarnation is lived out-in all of its humanness and ordinariness.
Regarding parental authority, there is some controversy surrounding the phrase, “Because I said so.” But I think it is a legitimate response in certain contexts. For example, a very young child might ask why but not be able to understand the reasons. Or in a crisis, the parents might not have time to explain why. I think explaining why is a courtesy parents give to their children; it is not a requirement imposed upon them by the children. The phrase highlights the nature of parental authority. Children really do have to obey, even if they don’t like, understand, or know the reasons why (assuming good will and nothing nefarious on the part of the parents).
If there is a “domestic church,” then it follows that there is a domestic teaching authority invested in parents, which we might infer is a domestic magisterium. This magisterium must be obeyed.
This post is pretty much for my own clarification. It’s pretty long, so you don’t have to read the whole thing. If it interests you at all, you can scroll down and read my summary at the end.
Catholics often criticize Protestants for exercising their own absolute right to private judgement. Protestants retort by saying that Catholics do the same thing. This objection is known as the Tu Quoque. It is when the person defends against a criticism by saying, “You do it too, so it’s OK.” I’ve intuited that this retort is wrong but wasn’t very clear on why.
I came across a post at Called to Communion that addresses the subject. I got more out of the comments than the original post. If you are so inclined, read the post and the comments. There is a lot of good stuff there, but the entire comment thread is extremely long.
One of the commentors said:
… the object of Catholic assent is fundamentally different in kind from the object of Protestant assent, even if the process of inquiry leading up to the assent is otherwise very similar in form and diligence…
Later this same commentor says:
…what distinguishes Catholicism from Protestantism is the sort of assent each involves. Since the Protestant recognizes no individual or ecclesial authority as infallible under any conditions, even when he considers Scripture inerrant (which not all Protestants do), the Protestant must inevitably regard as provisional any assent he might render to doctrinal statements, whether those statements are offered as mere expositions of Scripture or go beyond that. If he considers Scripture inerrant, he will of course say that his assent to the truths contained in Scripture is absolute not provisional. But to the question what the truths we can extract from Scripture actually mean or imply for doctrinal purposes, he can answer only by citing expositions and interpretations that represent his own or others’ opinions. Affirming that Scripture is inerrant, therefore, affords the Protestant as such no basis whatsoever for saying that we know what, exactly, God is revealing to us through Scripture in a manner that can be expressed by doctrinal statements. He might of course glean, from his own reading of Scripture and the work of his preferred scholars, a pretty fair idea of what the human authors of Scripture intended by their words. But given his rejection of infallible interpretive authority, the Protestant leaves himself in no position to distinguish reliably between de fide doctrines—i.e., the doctrines to which God calls for our assent—and the theological views of both authors and interpreters. Hence the Protestant as such has no way in principle to distinguish clearly the assent of faith, which is a divine gift involving assent to statements made with divine authority, from mere human opinions about what various “sources,” primarily Scripture, actually transmit to us as divine revelation.
This means, among other things, that the Protestant sees something called “the Church” in a fundamentally different way from Catholics. Given how he conceives assent to divine truth, the Protestant cannot see something called “the Church” as a sure guide to discerning it. Since “the Church” is fallible under all conditions, her orthodoxy is to be judged by what this-or-that person or group takes to be the doctrinally correct interpretation of Scripture (and other sources too, on some accounts), rather than vice-versa. Ultimately, the Protestant’s assent involves submission not to “the Church” but to himself as his most reliable guide to discerning divine revelation. “The Church,” from this point of view, is simply the set of people who ascribe to the “correct” interpretation of the sources, where what’s “correct” is what the individual believer provisionally accepts as such. The claims of this-or-that church to a certain kind of authority thus form no part of the deposit of faith; rather, what counts as “the Church” depends on its conformity to the deposit of faith, when said deposit is understood in a manner logically independent of any ecclesial claims to authority. Thus “the Church” is not strictly necessary for knowing Truth himself. It might be educationally useful for some, and is certainly pastorally useful for many. But that’s about it. In principle, it’s quite possible to read the Bible alone in a room and thereby learn all that God wants us to know for our salvation. Of course that sort of thing yields a variety of opinions whose holders like to call “doctrines” given by the Holy Spirit. Many of those opinions are, of course, mutually incompatible. That’s why we have more Protestant denominations and sects than anybody, including Protestants themselves, can agree on how to count.
When the Catholic, on the other hand, makes his assent of faith, he is among other things assenting to the claims made by a visible, historically continuous body that it is the Body of Christ on earth, authorized by him as her Head to teach in his name and thus, when speaking with her full authority, protected by his Spirit from requiring belief in propositions that are false. Accordingly, the Catholic does not, because as such he cannot, claim to know the deposit of faith in a manner logically independent of the claims the Church makes for herself. He does not, because he cannot, claim to know the “true doctrine” from the sources without depending on the authoritative certification of the sources as such by the Church, and the authoritative interpretations thereof by the Church. Thus for the Catholic, faith in the risen Christ, acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God, and faith in the teaching of the Church as that of the Body of Christ are logically inseparable from each other. And so the Catholic does not judge the orthodoxy of the Church; rather, he submits to the Church as, among other things, the judge of his orthodoxy.
We are now in a position to address the question why the Catholic mode of assent
should be preferred to the Protestant’s. But we cannot settle that question just by learning the historical dataset and deciding, with our own human judgment, whether it best supports Catholicism or some version of Protestantism. Most people are in no position to take in all the relevant data, and even those who are in such a position disagree on how to interpret it for the purpose at hand. From a historical point of view, the question is which hermeneutical paradigm (HP) to adopt for the purpose of interpreting the data: the Catholic, or some Protestant version.
Now the question which HP to adopt cannot be answered by appeal to the dataset itself, for the question is precisely which manner of interpreting the data is preferable. The question can only be answered, I believe, by asking ourselves which HP is better suited to distinguishing the propositionally expressible content of divine revelation itself—assuming there is such a thing as divine revelation—from mere theological opinions, and thus to facilitating the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. Now as you say, if Catholicism is true, the answer to that question is obvious. But if Catholicism is false, we are left only with provisional opinions. And if we are left only with provisional opinions, then we have no reliable way to distinguish from human opinion that which God actually wants us to believe.
Later, he says:
… once the assent of faith in the Catholic Church is freely made in light of such an opinion, one cannot see oneself as assenting merely to an interpretation, as if it were just one legitimate interpretation among others incompatible with it. For what one is assenting to is either altogether and perniciously false, or divine authority itself. If one doesn’t see that, then one has not yet chosen to make the assent of Catholic faith.
Much later, the author of the original post writes:
… just because one initially uses one’s interpretation of Scripture, tradition and history to find something, it does not follow that one retains ultimate interpretive authority. Whether one retains ultimate interpretive authority depends on the nature of what one finds.
The process of interpretive inquiry leading up to assent is the same or very similar between Catholics and Protestants.
The objects of assent between Catholics and Protestants are very different. This is the reason the Tu Quoque objection does not apply to Catholics–the two groups are not doing the same things with the objects of their assent.
Object of Protestant assent: Protestants assent to Holy Scripture as the Word of God, and their own ability to understand it according to God’s will. “The Church” is the set of people who ascribe to the doctrines and dogmas that the individual Protestant believes to be the correct interpretations of the Scriptures. No interpretation of Scripture has divine authority, not even the inquirer’s own interpretation. No creed or confession is binding. The Holy Scriptures are of divine origin but interpretations of them are not.
Object of Catholic assent: the Church founded by Jesus Christ, visible, historically continuous, protected by the Holy Spirit from requiring belief in propositions that are false. Today’s Catholic bishops are the direct successors of the Apostles. The Catholic conforms his beliefs to what the Church teaches. The nature of what he found means that he is no longer the final interpreter–he no longer submits only when he agrees. He has found something objective, outside of himself, of divine origin.
If Catholicism is true: then the inquirer has found the true Church and can absolutely rely upon her in matters of faith and morals.
If Catholicism is false: then the inquirer has fallible opinions about the meaning of Scripture (including his own), and has no objectively sure way to know God’s will regarding the correct interpretation of Scripture. He can’t be certain of the difference between faith and opinion.
Another commentor remarked that going from Protestant to Catholic was like the difference between dating and marriage. I have often felt the same way. There was certain surrender that happened when I became Catholic.
This is all to say that Catholics are not subject to the Tu Quoque objection. This is because Catholics and Protestants find something different at the end of our respective inquiries. Because we find something different, Catholics don’t “do it too.” The “it” being “retain personal and final interpretive authority over the Scriptures.”
(This post is not a defense of the Catholic magisterium, apostolic succession, etc. It only shows how Catholics aren’t subject to the Tu Quoque objection.)
I’ve been praying this prayer every day during Lent. It’s called the Act of Confidence in Divine Mercy, written by St. Claude de la Colombiere:
Lord, behold a soul that is in the world so that Thou may exercise Thine admirable mercy to make it shine forth before heaven and earth.
Others glorify Thee by showing, through fidelity and constancy, the power of Thy grace and how sweet and generous Thou art to those who are faithful to Thee. As for me, I will glorify Thee by manifesting how good Thou art to sinners. In me Thou will show that Thy mercy is superior to all our malice, that nothing can exhaust it, and that no relapse, however shameful and culpable it may be, should make a sinner lose hope in Thy salvation.
My beloved redeemer, I have offended Thee gravely. But it would be worse still if I add to my offenses the horrible outrage of thinking that Thou art not so good as to forgive me.
In vain Thine enemy–who is also mine–sets new snares for me daily. He may cause me to cast away everything except the hope I have in Thy mercy. Even though I fall a hundred times, and my sins were a hundred times more horrible than what they are, I will always continue to hope in Thee.
This is from a little prayer book that is distributed by the Miles Christi priests of San Diego. This is the one I’ve been praying mostly, but I’ve also prayed others that I’ve found online, such as this one.
…deep within the Catechism there awaited a high hurdle. Even if Cardinal Newman convincingly demonstrates how the development of doctrine accounts for those Catholic doctrines that make Baptists bristle and Calvinists cringe, there awaited the Grace and Justification section of the Catechism. Wasn’t that the real key? Hadn’t we been taught that Catholics were “working their way to heaven” or “earning” their own salvation? Wasn’t that why Martin Luther had to rescue the gospel in the sixteenth century? Rome was preaching another gospel, as Paul warned the Galatians, deserving the anathema, right?
To my shame and embarrassment, I discovered that idea to be false; born of ignorance at best, maybe anti-Catholic prejudice, or worse. Even if I had picked it up innocently, and repeated it naively, I cannot justify my own ignorance and sloth. To my surprise, I discovered in the twenty-first century what Saint Augustine discovered in the fourth: “Great hope has dawned; the Catholic Faith teaches not what we thought, and vainly accused it of[.]” Indeed, the Church has been maligned and slandered, starting not in the sixteenth-century with the Reformers, but from the beginning. Like Augustine, when I discovered the truth of the Catholic Church, by God’s grace, I could not stay away. In fact, the Catholic Faith teaches what I have long believed: our salvation begins and ends with the grace of God – – based on the life and death of the God-Man, Jesus Christ; His cross; and His triumph over the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Then quotes from the Catechism on grace and justification appear. You can read them on the Vatican website here, if you wish)
There is no daylight between the Catholic Faith and Sacred Scripture on Grace and Justification. Martin Luther had legitimate complaints about the practices and discipline of the Church in the sixteenth century. However, his expressions of sola Scriptura and sola fide were error. He had no authority to break from the Church, or to set himself up against Her…
In short, Rome does not have a works-based religion. Catholics are no more “working” or “earning” their way to heaven on their own merit than the Philippians, to whom the Apostle Paul exhorted: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” (Phil. 2:12-13, NAB, Revised Edition). It begins and ends with the grace of God. There is no Scriptural authority to divorce my faith from my actions. You and I know each other’s faith when we see each other’s works…
Here is one person’s understanding of John Calvin (a Protestant reformer) and modern Evangelicalism. Written by a former Evangelical who converted to Catholic, in part due to what he discovered about Calvin:
When I finished seminary, I moved on to Ph.D. studies in Reformation history. My focus was on John Calvin (1509-1564), the French Reformer who made Geneva, Switzerland into a model Protestant city…
Calvin shocked me by rejecting key elements of my Evangelical tradition. Born-again spirituality, private interpretation of Scripture, a broad-minded approach to denominations – Calvin opposed them all. I discovered that his concerns were vastly different, more institutional, even more Catholic. Although he rejected the authority of Rome, there were things about the Catholic faith he never thought about leaving. He took for granted that the Church should have an interpretive authority, a sacramental liturgy and a single, unified faith…
In 1551, Bolsec, a physician and convert to Protestantism [and a former Catholic monk], entered Geneva and attended a lecture on theology. The topic was Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the teaching that God predetermines the eternal fate of every soul. Bolsec, who believed firmly in “Scripture alone” and “faith alone,” did not like what he heard. He thought it made God into a tyrant. When he stood up to challenge Calvin’s views, he was arrested and imprisoned.
What makes Bolsec’s case interesting is that it quickly evolved into a referendum on Church authority and the interpretation of Scripture. Bolsec, just like most Evangelicals today, argued that he was a Christian, that he had the Holy Spirit and that, therefore, he had as much right as Calvin to interpret the Bible. He promised to recant if Calvin would only prove his doctrine from the Scriptures. But Calvin would have none of it. He ridiculed Bolsec as a trouble maker (Bolsec generated a fair amount of public sympathy), rejected his appeal to Scripture, and called on the council to be harsh. He wrote privately to a friend that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.”
What most Evangelicals today don’t realize is that Calvin never endorsed private or lay interpretation of the Bible. While he rejected Rome’s claim to authority, he made striking claims for his own authority…
Calvin was part of the problem [of fracturing within Protestantism]. He had insisted on the importance of unity and authority, but had rejected any rational or consistent basis for that authority. He knew that Scripture totally alone, Scripture interpreted by each individual conscience, was a recipe for disaster. But his own claim to authority was perfectly arbitrary. Whenever he was challenged, he simply appealed to his own conscience, or to his subjective experience, but he denied that right to Bolsec and others…
Today we are at the Sea of Galilee. We arrived last night, and will be departing tomorrow. Our tour is constantly on the move, and every day is filled with many different sights. I couldn’t go with my group today to see the sights, because I had homework to finish. I worked on it like mad before leaving for this trip, but couldn’t get it all done. Some of it is due on Sunday, and because of the crazy touring schedule, today is the only day that I could have finished it. The entire trip, I knew that there would be at least one day that I would not be able to see the planned sights, and today was that day.
So everybody else boarded the bus after breakfast, and I stayed behind. I felt a little sad and lonely, but the area is very beautiful and the weather was perfect (the area reminds me of Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad). Plus, I’m at the Sea of Galilee!! How cool is that? I felt confident that the Lord had something special for me today. We are staying at a kibbutz that is on the lake, and it is like a small resort. It was very quiet all day, since most of the guests were out touring with their groups.
Before starting my homework, I sat down by the lake to pray and to read the scriptures. After I finished praying, I opened the mass readings for the day. The gospel reading was from Mark chapter 7. I hoped that the Sea of Galilee would be mentioned.
“Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'”
I was so touched! Here I was, sitting by the Sea of Galilee, perhaps near an area where Jesus himself once walked, and there it was in today’s reading.
Later, when reading it again, I noticed the part where it says, “He took him off by himself away from the crowd.” Then I got teary, because I had spent the day by myself “away from the crowd.” Yes, the Lord was with me, and he did have a special little signal for me today, as I thought he would.
(I took these photos later in the day, when it started to get a bit foggy. Earlier in the day it was very clear. I wish I had taken the photos then. Just imagine yourself at Batiquitos Lagoon on a quiet, sunny day, and you will have a good idea of what it is like here.)
I previously wrote about an exchange I had on a Protestant’s blog. On that same blog, another Protestant named Jesse invited me to respond to his post about private interpretation. My answer was similar to the other answer, but takes a different turn near the end:
… in Acts 15 those who favored circumcision for new Christians were forced to use their private judgment regarding the verdict of the council. They had to choose to accept the council’s verdict, or their own view of Scripture. In like manner, the Catholic position is that an authoritative council, or the Pope, or all the bishops throughout the world, exercise a magisterium regarding what Scripture means. In just the same way as the council in Acts 15, with respect to all Christian dogma, Christians must accept this human authority on the meaning of Scripture and other matters. We are not free to interpret Scripture in a manner that contradicts the human authority. We certainly can read Scripture ourselves and the Church encourages this. I believe that Catholics can legitimately dissent from certain Catholic teachings (not all, just certain types) but I am not clear on how that works (Google the phrase “faithful dissent” if you want to learn more about it). I do know that the Church teaches that we must follow our conscience even if our conscience is wrong.
Catholics may use private judgment in a limited sense. But when we talk about private judgment, I am not sure that we are talking about the same thing. It seems like Protestants have much wider bounds to their private judgments than Catholics do? For example, I’ve heard of Protestant churches splitting over non-doctrinal issues. If true, that is private judgment going too far, don’t you agree?
You mentioned some limits of private judgment in your post by listing some reasonable sounding criteria, then saying this: “…and by obeying the wisdom of the godly church leaders or instructors who give us the necessary tools for properly understanding the written Word of God.” Aren’t you saying here that Protestants have a magisterium? That’s what it sounds like to me. We need a magisterium! After all, we are sheep, as Jesus said. We are not all able or capable of doing the theological work of discerning dogma, canon, etc. Because we are sheep, we need help, and God has provided it.
Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin (a former Protestant) has pointed out that Protestants inadvertently recreate their own magisteriums because somebody must establish and maintain group cohesion:
The typical Protestant church thus unconsciously reinvents the Catholic [magisterial] system that it consciously scorns. It does this out of necessity, since there is simply no way to maintain an organized, healthy group which works in harmony without having someone with the authority to determine what the group is going to do and to expel those who won’t go along. You cannot have a classroom, a work crew, a social club, or a nation without someone with that kind of authority, and you certainly cannot have a church without one. Someone in any group must be able to say, “This is what the group is going to do” and “If you won’t do it and will continually publicly oppose it, then you cannot be part of the group. You must leave the classroom, work crew, social club, society, or church.”
I think it is very tempting to think that we are absolute individuals, discerning every single dogma on our own with the Holy Spirit. Speaking for myself, I know that I did not discern the dogma of the Trinity on my own, for example. Somebody told me about it and showed me the Scriptures for it. I suspect that is what goes on with everybody.
God in his mercy gave us a magisterium that we can rely upon to help us know His will and His ways.
Let’s say that an angel appeared before you. He held out his hands, and in one hand was a piece of manna from the Old Testament, exactly the same manna as what happened in Exodus 16. In the other hand was a piece of bread taken from one of your church services. Which would you choose? (I have left the type of bread open-ended so that any Christian who reads this can insert their own type of bread.)
I would not choose the old manna. I would choose the bread from one of my Church services, which is the Catholic Eucharist. This is because I believe that the new “bread from heaven” is superior to the old.
The new “bread from heaven” is the body of Christ, as taught in John 6. The body of Christ is far superior to the old manna. If I had chosen the manna from the OT, let’s consider the ramifications. How is something from the old covenant, that was annulled because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, more desirable than something from the new covenant? Did Christ institute the new bread from heaven, yet somehow the old bread from heaven is more desirable? How can that be? If I were to choose the old manna over the body of Christ, what would that say about my belief in the new covenant? Wouldn’t it say that I didn’t really believe in the new covenant, or that I believed it was weaker than the old?